ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – American lawmakers have added the Peshmerga to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the 2019 fiscal year, having expunged mention of the Kurdistan Region armed forces in an earlier draft.
“It is the sense of the Congress that the Peshmerga forces of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq have made, and continue to make, significant contributions to the United States-led campaign to degrade, dismantle, and ultimately defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Iraq,” the amended document reads.
“A lasting defeat of ISIS is critical to maintaining a stable and tolerant Iraq in which all faiths, sects, and ethnicities are afforded equal protection and full integration into the Government and society of Iraq.”
“In support of counter-ISIS operations and in conjunction with the Central Government of Iraq, the United States should continue to provide operational sustainment, as appropriate, to the Ministry of Peshmerga forces of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq so that the Peshmerga forces can more effectively partner with the Iraqi Security Forces, the United States, and other international Coalition members to consolidate gains, hold territory, and protect infrastructure from ISIS and its affiliates in an effort to deal a lasting defeat to ISIS and prevent its reemergence in Iraq,” the document adds.
When the first draft of the NDAA was released in February, there was no mention of continued support for the Peshmerga to subsidize soldiers’ salaries. Instead it focused on bolstering overall funding for the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), seeking $850 million for training and equipment.
The $716 billion Pentagon request will soon return to the House of Representatives to be debated further.
In the 2017 fiscal year, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) received $415 million from the US, sent directly to Erbil in monthly installments to pay the Peshmerga during the war against ISIS in Mosul.
More recently, the 2018 budget requested $365 million to specifically fund the Peshmerga. However, after Baghdad took control of the financial and military resources allowed into the Kurdistan Region following September’s referendum, the money was briefly withheld.
US-led forces trained 26,000 Peshmerga troops since the anti-ISIS mission began in 2014. The Peshmerga — initially armed by Iran and then with the assistance of the US military and later the coalition — halted the ISIS advance in northern Iraq and helped facilitate the ISF’s advance and eventual liberation of Mosul in 2017.
Peshmerga are enshrined in the 2005 Iraqi constitution. Kurdish leaders have requested more training from coalition members in an attempt to further professionalize their forces.