CJTF-OIR: We will ‘enable Peshmerga’ through training

“It’s important to understand the history of Kurdistan.”

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Brig. Gen. Austin Renforth, of the US Marine Corps, visited Erbil last week, and while he was there, he spoke with Kurdish media.

Renforth has recently arrived in theater as Deputy Commanding General-Operations (Iraq) and Director of Joint Operations-Iraq for CJFTF-OIR (Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve), the formal name of the US-led coalition against the Islamic State (IS.)

One of Renforth’s purposes in coming to Erbil was to meet Gen. Sirwan Barzani, the Marine Corps officer explained, and when Kurdistan 24 caught up with him, Renforth was with Barzani, who had been showing him around.

“I want to thank Gen. Barzani for his hospitality and showing me the history of the Peshmerga forces, and, really, the history of his grandfather,” Renforth began the interview, referring to the legendary Mullah Mustafa Barzani.

“It’s important to understand the history of Kurdistan,” he added.

That may seem incontrovertible, but there is a strong tendency within US institutions, including the military, to rely on technology—think of Donald Rumsfeld’s “shock and awe,” the approach with which the US launched Operation Iraqi Freedom—while ignoring factors like history and culture.

In speaking with us, Renforth emphasized that the CJTF-OIR will continue its support for the Peshmerga.

“We just had an allocation to give training dollars for the Peshmerga forces, so we’re going to enable the Peshmerga through our training,” he said.

Since October, when Iraqi forces attacked Kirkuk, security there and elsewhere in the disputed territories has deteriorated.

As a recently-released report from the office of the Defense Department’s Lead Inspector General noted, “Insurgent activity increased in Kirkuk, Diyala, and Salah ad Din provinces” during the last quarter of the year (ending on June 30.)

“Most of the violence” occurred in the disputed territories, where “militants were able to move around and establish checkpoints at night with relative ease,” the report explained, “exploiting the seam between at-times-competing security forces.”

Thus, the CJTF-OIR recognizes the need to restore cooperation between the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and the Peshmerga, and Renforth repeatedly stressed that point.

“We’re going to try to make [the Peshmerga] more capable and more credible,” Renforth said. And “when we get them to a point where we believe that the [ISF] and Peshmerga could come together to be stronger to defeat Da’esh,” the Arabic pejorative for IS, “we will do that,” he added.

“We’re always looking for opportunities to come together to defeat Da’esh,” Renforth concluded.

The latest US estimate is that some 17,000 IS fighters remain in Iraq.


Editing by Nadia Riva