Via Foreign Policy — American outrage to ISIS atrocities has resulted in various steps to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State, including an American-led coalition of airstrikes, and an authorization for up to 3,100 military “advisors.” But the best hope that the United States has for destroying ISIS exists in the form of boots on the ground – 200,000 pairs of boots that make up the Kurdish Regional Government’s Peshmerga.
In recent weeks, the Peshmerga has taken strategic advances to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS. The Peshmerga played a role in liberating Kobani, have defended Kirkuk against ISIS forces, and have advanced on Mosul, an Iraqi city that ISIS has held since June.
Despite its success, the Peshmerga faces the self-styled “Islamic State,” who are armed with American-made weaponry including humvees, heavy artillery and tanks, all seized from fleeing Iraqi soldiers late last summer.
To this point, the international community has responded by equipping the Peshmerga with light weaponry and munitions, provided mainly by European countries, and the only vehicles the US has sent to the Kurds have been MRAPs (Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected) transport vehicles.
The commonly accepted belief that Washington is slow to equip the Kurds is because the U.S. is reluctant to break up Iraq. Washington knows that arming the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq is one step towards true KRG independence, which may mean further instability in the Middle East.
But anyone familiar with the Kurdish situation in Iraq knows that the Kurdish Regional Government is here to stay. And with as many as 200,000 Kurdish “boots on the ground,” Washington has a golden opportunity to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS, if they so choose.