A Kurdish Peshmerga member guarding a security checkpoint. Photo: ARA News
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DUHOK – The United States has decided to provide $415m aid to Iraqi Kurdish forces, the US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced on Monday. Kurdish leaders praised the decision by the US government, after asking for additional US aid for several months.
The support comes after a senior delegation from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) spent a week in Washington meeting with key Administration officials, Members of Congress, the U.S. business community and several non-governmental organizations.
The lack of salaries was leading to small-scale desertions of one percent, the Interior Minister Karim Sinjari said in Washington last week, warning that this could increase if no foreign aid would back the Peshmerga forces that have been fighting for months without any money. This was also affecting the training of Peshmerga forces.
“The financial situation is not so good as it should be, but we can’t do anything about that,” a US-led coalition source told ARA News last month.
“We know from the Peshmerga forces they haven’t received their salaries for 4 to 5 months. They have families that need to eat and go to school, but the paying of salaries is up to the Ministry of Peshmerga,” the official said.
Previously coalition troops lost several days of training, after their translators went on strike for not receiving their salaries.
The Iraqi central government in Baghdad and the Kurdish government in Erbil are facing an economic crisis due to the low oil prices, the war, and the huge number of internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Therefore, Kurdish officials were relieved that the Peshmerga forces now received financial aid.
Masrour Barzani, Chancellor of the Kurdistan Region Security Council praised the decision. “I welcome the announcement by Secretary Ashton Carter to give financial aid to our Peshmerga and increase military engagement in war on ISIS,” he wrote on his twitter account.
“This war is a shared responsibility, and I hope other members of the Global Coalition will consider increasing their aid to Kurdistan,” he added.
Speaking to ARA News, Sirwan Barzani, frontline sector commander for Makhmour and Gwer, said that there are at least 2 million IDPs hosted by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), while Baghdad did not provide any financial support for the KRG, nor paying the Peshmerga forces.
“Forget about the military situation; after the Mosul operation, there will be even more people coming, thousands of them,” he warned about the future influx of IDPs to Kurdistan.
“We are on the frontline, and everybody is praising the Peshmerga forces, but we did not even receive expenses for one year. Moreover, Peshmerga’s did not receive a salary for at least three months,” Barzani told ARA News.
Also, Lahur Talabani, head of Iraqi Kurdistan’s Zaniyari intelligence service and a founding member of the Counter-Terrorism Group, welcomed the decision. “We thank the U.S. government for their commitment and support to our brave peshmerga forces who have been fighting ISIS on world’s behalf,” he said on twitter.
“U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter’s announcement of further aid to the Peshmerga comes at a great time as the KRG faces financial difficulties,” he wrote.
Peshmerga forces and foreign volunteers on the ground also welcomed the decision by the coalition to finally provide support.
“This is about time. Honestly, that money should go to paying all Peshmergas up to date and then the rest should go to the wounded and families who lost soldiers,” Ryan D OLeary, a foreign volunteer with Peshmerga forces on the Naweran frontline told ARA News.
Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg
Source: ARA News