KRG Interior Minister meets with Senior U.S. Officials in Washington

Ahmed’s trip to Washington is the first for a senior KRG minister since September, when the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research visited, and August, when the Minister of Peshmerga Affairs did.
Rebar Ahmed, KRG Minister of Interior met with Celeste Wallander, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, June 13, 2023 (Photo: Bayan Sami Rahman/Twitter)
Rebar Ahmed, KRG Minister of Interior met with Celeste Wallander, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, June 13, 2023 (Photo: Bayan Sami Rahman/Twitter)

WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan 24) – Rebar Ahmed, Minister of Interior in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), met with senior U.S. officials in the Department of Defense, as well as the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and State Department, on Monday.

Ahmed’s trip to Washington is the first such visit for a senior KRG minister since September, when the Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research led a delegation to the U.S. capital. 

Ahmed’s professional background includes handling criminal issues, as well as national security matters. He received a Master’s Degree from the Iraqi National Security University in Baghdad in 2007. He was appointed Interior Minister in 2019. 

This is Ahmed’s first visit to Washington in his current capacity. On Wednesday, the U.S. Institute for Peace will host a discussion with him.

Pentagon

Ahmed’s first meeting in Washington was with officials at the Defense Department, where he saw Celeste Wallander, the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs. The Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Middle East, Dana Stroul, also attended the meeting. 

“They discussed the enduring defeat of ISIS, the significance of the MOU [Memorandum of Understanding] and Peshmerga reform,” the KRG envoy to the U.S., Bayan Abdul Rahman, tweeted. 

The MOU—dealing with U.S. support for the Peshmerga—was first signed in 2016, following the sudden emergence of ISIS two years before. A long fight against the terrorist organization has followed, and the Peshmerga have played a crucial role.

The U.S.-KRG MOU on military cooperation was last renewed in September, when Wallander visited the Kurdistan Region. That trip, in turn, followed the visit of the KRG’s Minister of Peshmerga Affairs, Shoresh Ismail, to Washington in August.

Read More: KRG Minister of Peshmerga Affairs had ‘very successful’ visit to Washington

USAID and State Department

Later on Monday, Ahmed met with Andrew Pitt, Acting Assistant Administrator for the Middle East Bureau of USAID. 

Ahmed “thanked the US for years of humanitarian support to Kurdistan,” and he “called for assistance to help IDP’s and refugees that remain in the KRI [Kurdistan Region of Iraq],” the KRG envoy in Washington tweeted, while “they also discussed climate change.” 

As the KRG’s Joint Crisis Coordination Center reported last month, the Kurdistan Region hosts nearly one million refugees and internally displaced persons.

Read More: Kurdistan continues to host nearly 1 million IDPs and refugees: JCC

When the foreign ministers of the Defeat-ISIS Coalition met last week in Saudi Arabia, they approved additional funding for stabilization efforts in Iraq and Syria, including $148 million from the U.S. 

Read More: Defeat ISIS Coalition to Allocate Aid for Iraq Syria, as it meets in Riyadh

As for their discussion of climate change, it should be noted that Iraq—home of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers—is increasingly suffering a water crisis. According to the U.N's International Organization for Migration, over 62,000 people in the country have been displaced over the past four years, due in part to climate change, but also to dams upstream erected by Turkey and Iran, as well as Iraq’s mismanagement of the water that it does receive.

Ahmed’s final meeting on Monday was with Uzra Zeya, State Department Undersecretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights. She subsequently tweeted that they had discussed “the protection of human rights”and the “implementation of the Sinjar Agreement.

Zeya also praised the “KRG’s generous support of displaced persons & refugees and efforts to combat gender-based violence.”

Ahmed will also hold additional meetings at the White House, Treasury Department and U.S. Congress during this visit.