Erbil, Asharq Al-Awsat—Baghdad has delayed the delivery of vital international military assistance to Kurdistan to fight advancing Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Minister of Peshmerga Affairs Mustafa Qadir said on Tuesday.
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Qadir blamed the government of outgoing Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki for the delay, saying red tape was holding up the delivery of the military assistance.
“The sole problem is the obstruction caused . . . by one person in particular and that is outgoing Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki,” he said.
“The government has ordered that all airplanes carrying military assistance for the Kurdistan Region land first at Baghdad airport for inspection and only then is it permitted to enter Kurdistan,” he added. The United States and France have provided the bulk of the military assistance to the KRG, with other states providing logistical support.
Kurdish Peshmerga forces have fought a series of large-scale battles against ISIS, whose march northwards was checked after Kurdish forces took over the city of Kirkuk in June. Since then, ISIS has been seeking to secure its grip on central Iraq while testing Kurdish defenses. The KRG has called for Baghdad, Iraq’s neighbors, and other states to provide it with arms, particularly heavy weaponry, to allow it to drive ISIS fighters back.
Despite the delays Qadir stressed that the Peshmerga forces were in a strong position to confront ISIS. “The Peshmerga forces are in good condition and this is much better than it was before the dispatch of the international military aid to the Kurdistan region. We will try to develop our forces for the better in the near future.”
“Until now, the Peshmerga forces and Asayish [security] are fighting ISIS alone, without the assistance of any other forces. We are only suffering from a lack of arms and ammunition; we have not asked any state to send any soldiers to Kurdistan because the Peshmerga have good numbers in addition to the volunteers and citizens who have expressed their willingness to fight ISIS,” the Peshmerga minister told Asharq Al-Awsat.
“No Iraqi military unit has helped us in our current operations against ISIS, with the exception of one unit that participated in the operation to re-secure the Mosul Dam. After this, it did not participate in any attack or operation,” he added.
“There are 150,00 Peshmerga fighters and they are fighting against ISIS in collaboration with the Asayish and Zervani [paramilitary police], as well as the counter-terrorism forces,” he continued.
Western analysts estimate that ISIS has around 15,000 fighters in total, although they are spread across Iraq and Syria, with other sources saying the group has access to as many as 80,000.