US-led coalition to arm new joint brigades of Peshmerga, Iraqi military: Kurdish official
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A senior Kurdistan Region official said on Tuesday that the US-led Coalition to Defeat ISIS will begin arming two joint brigades being formed of Kurdish Peshmerga forces and the Iraqi military to counter the threat of the extremist organization in territories disputed by the federal government and the autonomous Kurdistan Region.
The Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs has been holding intensive talks with Baghdad about the new brigades and the scope of their mission.
Fawzi Hariri, the head of the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) delegation within the US-Iraq Strategic Dialogue, told Kurdistan 24 that the coalition would arm the two brigades, but offered no specific timeline or additional details about the nature of the process.
Hariri, who heads the KRG Presidency office, said that the interests of the KRG and the people it represents are "preserved" in the developing Iraqi-American agreement.
In its harsh response to the Kurdistan Region's 2017 independence referendum, Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed militias of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) pushed Peshmerga from the disputed territories. Since then, these areas have suffered from a lack of unified military strategy across large tracts of land ranging from Khanaqin in central Diyala province to Kirkuk and northward to multiple areas surrounding Mosul.
Senior officials in the Kurdistan Region have repeatedly warned that ISIS continues to regroup in Iraq and have urged Baghdad to increase coordination with Peshmerga to track down remnants of the terrorist organization.
In late May, Iraqi Joint Operations Command stated that it would establish a joint security coordination center between the army and Peshmerga in Kirkuk.
The joint endeavor was the first conducted after the establishment of security cooperation centers in the areas, which have become hotbeds for ISIS activity following the group's 2017 territorial defeat in Iraq.
On Monday, Iraqi National Security Adviser Qassim al-Araji also pointed out that security cooperation between the federal government and the Kurdistan Region is good, stressing at the same time that a security delegation will visit Erbil soon.
Araji told Kurdistan 24 that Iraqi representatives in Washington held meetings with the US Secretary of Defense and US leaders in the presence of a specialized Iraqi security delegation, to discuss training, information exchange, and armament.
"Cooperation between Erbil and Baghdad is good in terms of security, and there is close cooperation between the Peshmerga and the Ministry of Defense to seize the areas of interest from both sides to prevent ISIS activities in those areas," he said.
Many of the disputed territories, including those in Kirkuk, Diyala, and Nineveh provinces, have in recent months witnessed escalating violence by ISIS militants against both civilians and security forces.
Editing by John J. Catherine