ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – ISIS’ increasing activity in parts of Iraq that suffer security gaps led the discussion on Wednesday in a meeting between the new Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region, Masrour Barzani, and a US military delegation led by Brig.Gen.Gregory Kreuder, Chief of the US Office of Security Cooperation–Iraq (OSC-I.)
The US established OSC-I following the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq in December 2011, and it is located in the US embassy in Baghdad. This meeting continues the discussion that Barzani and Kreuder held last month.
In Wednesday’s meeting, the two officials exchanged views on recent security developments in the region, as well as Peshmerga reform, as a readout from the Prime Minister’s office explains.
Unifying the two main Peshmerga forces, along with US assistance to and the training of those troops, was a major topic of their discussion. Kreuder reaffirmed America’s “ongoing support of reform of the Peshmerga Ministry in unifying the two main Peshmerga forces into one entity, under a single command.”
The Ministry of Peshmerga has established a Reform Board, which is working to implement a roadmap for change. That roadmap includes 31 different projects that would consolidate the Peshmerga into a more efficient and effective national defense force.
Barzani also touched on the issue of the “rising activity from ISIS sleeper cells as the security gap in Iraq remains, particularly in the disputed territories.”
Both sides stressed the importance of establishing a coordination mechanism between the Peshmerga Forces and Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) to address the security gaps in the disputed territories.
The meeting concluded, as PM Barzani extended his “thanks to the Chief of OSC-I for their support and continued coordination with Peshmerga Forces.”
There are about 240,000 Peshmerga fighters in the Kurdistan Region. Although some have been unified under the umbrella of the Peshmerga Ministry, the majority remain divided, taking orders mainly from the political parties to which they belong.
About 2,000 Peshmerga were killed fighting the so-called Islamic State, and 12,000 were wounded, according to the Peshmerga Ministry. Since 2014, the US-led coalition (CJTF-OIR) has trained thousands of Peshmerga fighters, and that training continues.
Editing by Laurie Mylroie