Colonel Ryan Dillon, spokesperson for the US-led global anti-ISIS coalition. Photo: Rudaw video
Iraq’s future is for the Iraqis to decide, says the anti-ISIS coalition military spokesman in Iraq, and unity between Iraqi and Kurdish forces in the fight against ISIS will remove obstacles in the way of dialogue. In this interview with Rudaw, Colonel Ryan Dillon says that the coalition forces appreciate the role the Kurdish Peshmerga played in the fight against ISIS and that 22,000 Peshmerga have been trained since 2014.
He said the coalition forces want all forces in Iraq to remain and act under the command of the Iraqi prime minister.
He dismissed fears that the United States or coalition forces may abandon the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) after the liberation of Raqqa, saying the SDF fought bravely and freed millions of people from ISIS. Col. Dillion said that there is still fighting left to be done against ISIS and encouraged all sides to unite on this front.
ISIS has been driven out from urban areas in Syria. What will US relations with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) be like, as there are speculations that the US might abandon them?
The Coalition remains committed to our SDF partners in Syria. They have fought bravely and sacrificed much, as they have fought to liberate more than four million Syrians from Daesh terrorists. There is still more fighting required before ISIS is completely cleared from the area. They are still hiding and fighting in the Middle Euphrates River Valley, and our focus remains on defeating Daesh in all these areas.
Iran and the Syrian regime plan to fight the SDF in Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor, will you support the SDF in that case?
We cannot speculate on future scenarios. The fact is we are committed to supporting our SDF partners in their continuing mission to defeat Daesh. The Coalition de-conflicts with Russians supporting the Syrian regime and we will continue to do so to avoid confrontation and stay focused on defeating Daesh.
What is the US position in Iraq after the Kirkuk developments? Has the US warned Baghdad to stop the aggression? Does the US have any red lines regarding Baghdad's aggression against KRG beyond condemning them? Is Erbil a red line for the US?
The Coalition is monitoring and encouraging discussions between ISF and Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq.
Iraq's future is for Iraqis to decide, and the Coalition believes that the best way to ensure that every Iraqi has a voice in his or her country's future is through ongoing dialogue. ISIS is the biggest roadblock that kept such dialogues from happening, and their strategy includes actively sowing discord among the diverse groups in Iraq.
This is why we think that our most valuable contribution to Iraq's future is the defeat of ISIS.
We would also like to add that all elements of the Iraqi Security Forces and Peshmerga have shown their dominance over ISIS when they work together, as we saw in Mosul and the quick liberations of Tal Afar and Hawija. The Coalition's priority in Iraq right now is to support our partners with defeating ISIS in its last locations in Western Anbar Province with intelligence, precision air and ground artillery strikes, and combat advice.
Is the US going to keep on supporting KRG militarily, in terms of ammunition and training?
The Coalition has trained and equipped more than 22,000 Peshmerga since 2014. The Coalition currently trains Kurdish military; no long-term decision has been made regarding future equipment and training.
The Iraqi government eyes Fish Khabur. What is the US position concerning this strategic border crossing and does the US have any share or interest there?
Iraq's border crossings are a sovereign national issue that should be decided through appropriate political processes. The Coalition remains focused on defeating Daesh and supporting the long-term safety and security of the Iraqi people.
Iranian backed forces were a major part of the Kirkuk attacks on October 15. How does the US see the Tehran's influence in that area and what is the plan to counter it?
We continue to emphasize the need for all forces operating in Iraq to operate under the unified direction of the Iraqi Prime Minister, and to operate according to the best interests of the Iraqi people.
Kurds, once regarded a trusted ally of the US, feel betrayed by the US once again. How could or would the US allay these fears?
We greatly value the heroic actions of the Kurdish Peshmerga as they have fought bravely against Daesh terrorists in defense of Iraq and the world. We have supported the Peshmerga as a vital member of the Iraqi Security Forces, and we urge the Kurdish and Iraqi central governments to continue working together to peacefully resolve any disagreements, so we can all continue defeating Daesh terrorists and focusing on the long-term security of all of Iraq.