Stories from Kurdistan

Working with Kurds: Iraqi Residents Optimistic About Defeat of Islamic State

The following article was originally published by 680 News on October 25, 2016.

CALGARY – It’s an uneasy alliance born out of necessity.

Two residents of the Kurdistan region near Iraq’s second-largest city say past differences are being put aside for now to defeat the Islamic State.

The Iraqi army and Kurdish peshmerga fighters are converging on Mosul, which has been in the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant since 2014.

Khalid Jamal Alber, executive director of the Ministry of Religious Affairs for the Kurdistan Regional Government, said progress has been made since the Iraqis and Kurds started working together to defeat a common foe.

“Now because we have one goal to liberate Iraq … nobody is bigger than the other and we have to co-operate and the Iraqi military has to work with peshmerga to liberate these areas,” Alber said during a visit to Calgary Tuesday.

There is still some lingering resentment, however, over the loss of Mosul to ISIL in the first place, he said.

The Iraqi army, which had 30,000 soldiers stationed in the city, lost to a 1,500-member attack force. After six days of fighting, the city — as well as Mosul International Airport and helicopters located there — were under ISIL’s control.

“Because of the disloyalty of the Iraqi army … (ISIL) entered Mosul and took the city. They left all their equipment and weapons in Mosul.”

Discussions are underway to determine what happens to any liberated areas.

“There’s a lot of meetings that are going on with the prime minister and the president of Kurdistan … to decide who is going to be there, how these areas will be controlled or ruled and how it can be administered,” Alber said.

Christian Pastor Malath Baythoon, who helped set up aid and development projects in the region for Samaritan’s Purse, said there is reason for optimism about the eventual defeat of the Islamic State. But, he said if that happens, it’s hard to determine what will happen in the unsettled region.

“The picture is foggy nowadays. I can’t tell you exactly how it’s going to happen in Iraq,” he said during the Calgary visit.

“All of these things are new to us so, what’s going to happen after the Mosul thing, we don’t really know.”

Baythoon said many of Mosul’s Christians fled to the Kurdish region and, despite what they’ve gone through, they want to go home.

“Some people are dying to go back home. They want to just go back to their homes even though they are destroyed.

“Some of them are very highly connected to the land.”

Canada has more than 170 special forces troops working with and assisting the Kurds in northern Iraq.

That includes a helicopter squadron, about 50 personnel attached to a medical hospital in Erbil and an unspecified number of soldiers working directly with the Kurds near the front lines.

Alber has plenty of praise for international support, including military trainers from Canada who have taken part in skirmishes against the Islamic State.

“I really thank them for that,” he said.

“They stand side by side with the peshmerga and they consider them as good friends who are trying to help the peshmerga and the Kurdish people reclaim their land.”


Access the article above in 680 News.

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