Peshmerga forces training on their new American rifles in Erbil Camp. Photo: Wladimir van Wilgenburg/ARA News
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ERBIL ∼ The Kurdish Peshmerga forces for the first time received arms for two brigades that will most likely participate in the operation aimed at regaining Mosul from the radical group of Islamic State (ISIS).
The Kurdish Peshmerga forces started last week the first Modern Brigade Course –a 10-weeks program during which the Peshmergas are trained on basic infantry skills with U.S. weapons.
This is the first time that the Peshmerga receive personal military equipment donated by the United States, including helmets, body armor vests, anti-chemical protection equipment, medical equipment and M16 rifles.
“This if the first time for our soldiers here and if you look around today, you can see they have all the same equipment,” said Colonel Bernd Prill, the commander of the Kurdistan Training Coordination Centre (KTCC) during a media tour on Wednesday.
While previously Peshmerga forces brought their own different weapons to the training, this time they are all equipped with standard equipment. “This will make it easier for us and for them,” said Prill. “Previously, our trainers had to be prepared for five different weapons, now only for one,” he added.
Nevertheless, Colonel Prill could not confirm if the arming of Peshmerga forces was related to the upcoming offensive on Mosul, the de-facto capital of the Islamic state in northern Iraq. “I have no idea, it depends on when the attack will start and other factors,” he told ARA News.
In addition to the U.S. weapons, its expected that the Peshmerga army of Iraqi Kurdistan will soon receive a new weapon shipment of rifles and Milan rockets.
Earlier reports by the German media suggested that some Peshmergas had sold some of their weapons. According to a report of the German newspaper Der Spiegel only 88 items from the 28,000 weapons were lost. Half of them were lost in the battle against ISIS, while Peshmerga forces sold 17 weapons, and 10 Peshmerga fighters were arrested for illegally selling weapons. There were no further information about the remaining 16 guns.
As a result, the German government decided to continue to arm the Peshmerga forces, as one of the few effective ground forces on the ground to fight the Islamic State.
“We are waiting for the final report from the Germans. The plan is to support the Peshmerga with additional weapons and ammunition,” Prill told ARA News.
According to Der Spiegel journalist Matthias Gebauer, Germany approved a new weapon shipment of 4,000 assault rifles and 200 milan rockets.
Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg
Source: ARA News