40 to 50 percent of Peshmerga forces united under Ministry of Peshmerga: senior advisor
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – There are now 20 unified Peshmerga brigades and support command units in the Kurdistan Region thanks to the Peshmerga unification program, Senior Advisor at the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs Staff Major General Hazhar Ismail told the Kurdistan In America podcast.
“So I can say 40 to 50 percent of the Peshmerga forces are under the umbrella of the Ministry of Peshmerga,” Ismail told the Kurdistan in America podcast on June 26. The podcast is affiliated with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) representative office in the United States.
We are honored to have General Hazhar Ismail as our guest in our latest podcast interview.@DelovanBarwari and @hazhar_o discussed the Peshmerga reform program, coordination between the Iraqi Army and @KRG_MOPE and US-Iraq strategic dialogue— KRG-USA (@KRG_USA) July 6, 2022
Listen 👇🎙️https://t.co/Vt4EbtzZEQ pic.twitter.com/XrZSyWS9bb
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The Netherlands, the US, the UK, and Germany are part of the Multi-National Advisory Group (MNAG) that supports the Peshmerga unification project.
There are still forces from the Kurdistan Democratic Party's (KDP) Unit 80 and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan's (PUK) Unit 70 that are not part of the Ministry of Peshmerga.
However, the Kurdish leadership last year put heavy support units from these partisan forces under the Ministry of Peshmerga command.
پاش ١٠ ساڵ لەپلەی عمید رکن، ئەمڕۆ پلەم بەرزبوویەوە بۆ لیوا رکن.— Hazhar Zangana (@hazhar_o) July 6, 2022
بعد ١٠ سنوات برتبة عميد ركن، اليوم تم ترقيتي الى رتبة لواء ركن.
After 10 years as Staff Brigadier General, Today I promoted to Staff Major General. pic.twitter.com/tvpBBodhXw
"We used to have two Ministers of Peshmerga in 2010, and we established one Ministry of Peshmerga," Major General Ismail said.
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"So in 2010, we started to bring forces under the Ministry of Peshmerga every year," he added. "We brought four brigades until ISIS showed up in 2014."
"So in 2014, we had 14 unified brigades under the umbrella of the Ministry of Peshmerga. After 2017, after the defeat of ISIS, we started the Peshmerga reform program, and also we tried to bring the other forces under the umbrella of the Ministry of Peshmerga."
Last year, four more brigades from 70 and 80 units were brought under the Ministry of Peshmerga's umbrella.
"We've been able to have first and second support commands under the umbrella of the Ministry of Peshmerga, which have heavy weapons," Ismail said. "So, the biggest forces are now under the umbrella of the Ministry of Peshmerga."
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Ismail recalled they started working on the Peshmerga reform program with the support of coalition advisors when then-President Masoud Barzani met with the British defense minister in 2017 "to help the Ministry of Peshmerga to reform and reorganize themselves."
In the beginning, a senior UK advisor joined the program at the request of the Peshmerga ministry. Later, senior advisors from the US, Germany, and the Netherlands also joined the project.
"It was an honor for me to be the co-founder of the Peshmerga reform program," Ismail said.
The Peshmerga reform process is proceeding slowly, he explained.
"There are many challenges like budgets," he said. "You know, modernizing the Peshmerga or army needs a very good budget. Unfortunately, the Iraqi federal government never provided our budget and never gave us weapons and ammunition even during the fight against ISIS."
"So, thankfully, the coalition forces provided some weapons, ammunition, training, and advice during the fight against ISIS," he added. "So, thank God, we've been able to fight and stop to defeat ISIS."
Read More: Ministry of Peshmerga underlines necessity of Peshmerga reform in meeting with foreign advisors
Aside from the budget, another challenge is the command and control of the Peshmerga forces and the support from political parties and the Kurdish government.
"Thank God, we now have a strong will from the government and from the presidency," Ismail said. "They have provided us with support to the Peshmerga program. But we are asking for more support from the government and from the presidency, the coalition forces to unify all the forces under the umbrella of the Ministry of Peshmerga."
He said the US has provided significant support for the Peshmerga but said, "we are asking for the US to provide more support for the Peshmerga because we believe we have one common enemy in the region."
"Side by side, we fought together against terrorist groups like Al Qaeda, ISIS, other terrorist groups," he concluded. "But still, there are many things we can do together."
Ismail's full interview can be listened to here.