US praises role of Kurdish President Barzani and Peshmerga forces

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President Barzani (center) with a number of Peshmerga forces. File photo

ARA News

Erbil – US Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and General Stephen Townsend on Monday heaped praise on the Kurdish Peshmerga and President Masoud Barzani. Both men visited to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, last Sunday.

Several meetings were held last week, during which US officials and the Kurdish president discussed the ongoing battle for Mosul and worked to ensure ongoing cooperation between the Kurdish and Iraqi forces. Analysts told ARA News that cooperation within Iraq’s factious politics would determine the outcome of the Mosul operation.

“I had a very productive meeting with President Barzani in Erbil,” Defense Secretary Carter said. “I was able to congratulate him and his forces on their critical role in carrying out the Mosul campaign.”

Carter praised the performance of the Kurdish Peshmerga. He specifically commended “their cooperation with us and […] especially the way they have worked with the Iraqi security forces and supported Iraqi unity.”

The US defense secretary said that both President Barzani and Prime Minister Abadi were committed to the agreements they reached in December. “[President Barzani] is a man that has kept his word and we won’t forget that and Prime Minister Abadi has kept his word and we won’t forget that,” he said.

Carter also promised to back the Kurdish Peshmerga forces to the hilt, acknowledging criticism that US-led coalitions air cover was insufficient at the beginning of the October 20 Bashiqa offensive. “I assured [Barzani] that we are bringing the full might of coalition air support to the Peshmerga,” he said.

General Townsend, the head of Operation Inherent Resolve, also praised the Kurd’s resolve after they broke through Islamic State (ISIS) defensive lines and surrounded the town of Bashiqa on Sunday.

“My own reporting suggests that President Barzani is right, that there has been a considerable success at Bashiqa. We’ll assess what that means […] but clearly the Kurdish Peshmerga deserve some recognition there,” he said.

The US defense secretary also discussed the day after Mosul’s liberation with President Barzani, continuing a months-old dialogue

“I am not aware of any clear post-liberation governance agreement. Everyone agrees there needs to be an agreement or a discussion, but I am not sure we are really at that stage. Maybe now, during the drive towards the liberation of Mosul, maybe it will gain momentum,” the Kurdistan Regional Government’s representative in Washington, Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, told ARA News.

Carter, speaking of Iraq’s future, said: “My mind is already thinking ahead to the desperate need for stabilization and reconstruction in cities as they are taken back from ISIS.”

 

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