The article below was originally published by Rudaw on April 3, 2016.
MAKHMOUR, Kurdistan Region – Dressed in a traditional Kurdish outfit, U.S. Consul General in Erbil Matthias Mitman paid tribute to Peshmerga forces on Saturday by visiting the Makhmour front where Iraqi forces are locked in an offensive against the Islamic State (ISIS).
“We’re here actually to pay tribute to the Peshmerga,” Mitman told Rudaw on the frontline that is some 50 kilometers south of Erbil. “They are brave, they’re courageous, and they are fighting so the people in Kurdistan Region can live in peace.”
Asked about a proposed Kurdish referendum – which could take place in October on whether the Kurds should break away from Iraq and declare their own nation – Mitman underscored the importance of unity in the war against Daesh, the derogatory Arabic name for ISIS.
“Right now it is important that Iraq be united — the threats that they are facing with Daesh, the financial threats,” he said, referring to a severe economic crisis in the Kurdistan Region. “It’s important that Iraq be unified.”
“We understand the financial challenges that the Kurdistan Region currently faces and we continue to look at ways in which we can increase our assistance to improve the capabilities of the Peshmerga,” he said.
“They (Peshmerga) are a very strong partner in the fight against Daesh; we are going to be successful in defeating Daesh militarily,” he declared.
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Mitman, who has been consul general since last year, said he had found Kurds to be “very warm, very friendly.”
Iraqi forces began an offensive in Makhmour on March 24, starting an assault that is expected to lead to the liberation of Mosul, ISIS’ stronghold in Iraq since the militants captured the city in June 2014.