US–Kurdish Relations

With Help From US, New Peshmerga Units Signal Reform

Kurdish Offensive

In the past twelve days since volunteer registration has opened for three new Kurdish Peshmerga brigades, more than 600 Kurds have volunteered to join the armed forces that protect Iraqi Kurdistan.

Amidst a tough fought battle against the self-proclaimed Islamic State terrorist group, the Kurdish Ministry of Peshmerga, with the help of the United States government, has decided to expand its Peshmerga forces by three brigades, or approximately 6,500 soldiers.

A “New” Peshmerga

The new brigades are an effort at reforming the old Peshmerga into a capable and professional force that meets the needs of the Kurdish people. Historically, Peshmerga units were recruited and controlled along political party lines. However, the recruits of these new Peshmerga brigades will not be selected on partisan loyalties.

One recruit of the new brigades, Dildar Namiq, is a former taxi driver looking to do something better with his life. “I want to go to the front lines and fight Daesh,” he added, referring to the Islamic State terrorist group by its Arabic acronym.

Namiq is also optimistic about the future of the Peshmerga. “I’m happy these units are different,” he says. Now that brigades will not be recruited along party lines, perhaps Namiq has a chance to make history and become the core of a united Kurdish Peshmerga.

Joint Effort with U.S. Government

The goal by the end of the summer will be to outfit three brigades with a total of 6,500 soldiers. United States Consul General to Erbil, Joseph Pennington, said that the U.S. Government has provided over $180 million worth of equipment and ammunition to the Kurdish Ministry of Peshmerga, and has signed on to provide complete brigade sets for these 6,500 soldiers.

“The sets will include individual soldier equipment, including helmets, body armor, first aid kits, rifles and machine guns. Also included are vehicles to move troops, supplies and equipment,” said Pennington.

Signals of Peshmerga Reform

Currently, there are 16 Peshmerga brigades controlled by the Kurdish Ministry of Peshmerga, and estimates put the fighting force at upwards of 100,000 soldiers. There are also two mechanized divisions that are each controlled exclusively by the two main Kurdish political parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

Some believe that the desire to end the division of control over Peshmerga brigades is what has led to the creation of these new brigades. If Iraqi Kurdistan can use these new brigades to bridge the deep political division between the PUK and KDP, the future of a united Iraqi Kurdistan will be much more bright.

[Read more at Al-Monitor]

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