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Peshmerga seeking greater independence from Baghdad: commander - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters monitor the area from their front line position in Bashiqa, a town 13 kilometres north-east of Mosul on August 16, 2014. (AFP/Ahmad Al-Rubaye)

Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters monitor the area from their front line position in Bashiqa, a town 13 kilometres north-east of Mosul on August 16, 2014. (AFP/Ahmad Al-Rubaye)

Erbil, Asharq Al-Awsat—Kurdish Peshmerga forces are moving towards greater independence from the central government Baghdad, Peshmerga Ministry Secretary-General Lt. Gen. Jabbar Yawar said earlier this week.

In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, Yawar said: “We are continuing to organize, train, equip, arm and unify Peshmerga forces in order for them to be the official force [of the Kurdistan Region].”

“This is in line with Article 121 of the Iraqi constitution that grants the Kurdistan Region the right to possess regional guardians and the Peshmerga are our regional guardians. Our experience is clear. Peshmerga forces were able to protect the Kurdistan Region and confront and defeat terrorism, liberating a number of areas,” he added.

Article 121 of the Iraqi constitution clearly states that “the regional government shall be responsible for all the administrative requirements of the region, particularly the establishment and organization of the internal security forces for the region such as police, security forces and guards of the region.”

Kurdish Peshmerga forces have played an increasingly prominent role in the fight against Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) fighters who have taken control of large parts of the country, often facing little resistance from central government forces.

“The process of unifying and organizing Peshmerga forces does not have a deadline because unifying any forces is a technically difficult task. Unifying a single brigade, for example, which consists of more than 3,000 officers and soldiers requires more than six months, because after unification the new brigade needs to receive arms, carry out training exercises and implement a number of administrative processes,” the Peshmerga Ministry Secretary-General said.

He claimed that Peshmerga leadership have managed to form a total of 14 infantry brigades as part of this military “unification” process.

However, Yawar complained that a tight military budget, particularly following a lack of support from Baghdad, has hindered the Peshmerga’s military reform process. He called for more support for the Kurdish Peshmerga forces from Baghdad and the US-led anti-ISIS international coalition.

“The Region has sufficient fighters to fight ISIS, but we don’t have enough arms and ammunition. We need more weapons, closer military coordination, more training of [Peshmerga] forces and air support,” Yawar told Asharq Al-Awsat.

Peshmerga forces advanced to take control of the region of Kirkuk, historically part of Kurdistan, following ISIS’s takeover of large parts of Al-Anbar and Nineveh province, including Iraq’s second city Mosul. The Kurdish advance succeeded in stemming the ISIS advance with Peshmerga forces subsequently liberating a number of ISIS-held territory to local and international acclaim. Peshmerga forces are now preparing, in coordination with Iraqi military forces, for a major offensive to retake Mosul and other ISIS-held areas after receiving arms and training from Baghdad and international partners.

Local media on Wednesday reported that Kurdish Peshmerga forces took launched a major offensive against ISIS forces west of Wednesday to assist Iraqi military troops in efforts to retake the city. Peshmerga forces reportedly took control of the villages of Tel Reem, Tel Khidir and Jamred as part of Wednesday’s assault, firing on ISIS positions in the region with their heavy artillery.