US Sec Def to PM Barzani: 'There is a special relationship between the Kurdistan Region and America'

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (left) and Kurdistan Region PM Masrour Barzani. (Photos: DoD, KRG)
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin (left) and Kurdistan Region PM Masrour Barzani. (Photos: DoD, KRG)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani received a letter from US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin on Tuesday which, according to a press release from the Kurdish official's office, "stressed the importance of the strong ties between the Kurdistan Region and the United States, as well as the ongoing cooperation in confronting ISIS militants."

The letter is consistent with a steady stream of US government statements that pledge ongoing robust support for the autonomous region of Iraq, with the statement characterizing General Austin's remarks as advocating for "a strong move forward in relations between the Kurdistan Region and the United States." 

The focus, however, returned quickly to the fight against the extremist organization that once controlled roughly a third of Iraq after violently taking over large swaths of land in 2014, with Austin thanking the Peshmerga "for their important role in defeating ISIS and we salute the sacrifices of the Peshmerga in the war against ISIS."

Militants loyal to the group have recently ramped up their attacks against both civilians and security forces across Iraq, particularly in territories disputed by Iraq’s federal and regional governments where they are able to exploit security gaps between the two armed forces.

Since Nov. 27, their attacks have killed 23 people, including Peshmerga fighters and civilians of the Kurdistan Region, something Peshmerga officials that day were scheduled to speak about the security situation before the parliament of the autonomous Kurdistan Region.

Read More: Kurdistan Parliament will discuss increase in ISIS attacks

A joint brigade of the Iraqi army and Kurdish Peshmerga were deployed on Monday to the disputed village of Lheban northwest of Kirkuk following a deadly ISIS attack there on Thursday night. 

Read More: Joint Iraqi-Peshmerga brigade deployed to Lheban village against ISIS: Official 

Also on Tuesday, US Col. Todd Burroughs, Deputy Director of the US-led Coalition's Military Advisor Group North, wrote in a tweet on Tuesday that increased cooperation between Iraqi security forces and Peshmerga as "essential" for combating ISIS, calling the joint deployment of Iraqi and Peshmerga forces to the village "a tremendous example of the cooperation necessary for enduring security."

Read More: Cooperation between Peshmerga and Iraqi Security Forces essential for combating ISIS: official

Also, the official account of the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), the US-led coalition, tweeted on Tuesday that cooperation between federal and regional troops "is a clear message that terrorism is not acceptable in Iraq." 

In his letter, according to the statement, Defense Secretary Austin restated that his government would "continue to support the Peshmerga forces and the Iraqi security forces in combating ISIS," especially, it said, in regard to the United States' advisory role, information-gathering, and intelligence exchange.

"There is a special relationship between the Kurdistan Region and America and it is a relationship based on values ​​and mutual respect," the general concluded, as quoted in the statement released by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

"We are pleased to welcome the joint work between the two sides. Thank you for your commitment to the important partnership that brings us together."