Kurdish Peshmerga forces.
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region— The number of troops affiliated with the Kurdish Peshmerga forces has exceeded 150,000 members, many of them recruited in the aftermath of the ISIS war nearly three years ago, according to several Peshmerga sources who have spoken to Rudaw.
The total number of the troops is considerably larger than the official figure recognized and funded by the Ministry of Peshmerga.
The two dominant Kurdish factions, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) maintain formidable Peshmerga units, well over 100,000 that are not part of the ministry’s official enlistees.
“According to our data, the ministry has 42,000 Peshmerga members. But there are also the PUK’s 70th Brigade with over 58,000 Peshmerga troops and the KDP’s 80th Brigade also with over 58,000,” which are not directly managed by the ministry, said lawmaker Qadir Watman.
As the war against the Islamic State militants raged in 2014, Kurdish President Masoud Barzani ordered to reform the Peshmerga forces, following battlefield reports that the troops lacked a unified command structure.
The ministry then was given six months to carry out the necessary reforms and place the force under a single, unified command.
The decision followed a report by the parliamentary committees from the battlefields, in which MPs noted that the Peshmerga ministry did not have authority over all troops.
The unification of the armed forces of the PUK and the KDP under the ministry of Peshmerga has been a major domestic issue since 2005 when the two parties signed a strategic pact that led to a unified government in Erbil.
Although they effectively managed to unify 14 of the existing 18 brigades, the ministry has struggled to bring all the units under its command.
“The unification of the Peshmerga forces needs a political decision,” said PUK senior leader Mustaf Chawrash. “We have had numerous meetings with the KDP over the unification. If the political issues are solved, I think unification should not be a major difficulty,” he added.
In addition to the 150,000 Peshmerga troops, there are also some 51,000 paramilitary Peshmerga forces known as the Zeravani, which are managed by the Kurdish Ministry of Interior, according to lawmaker Watman.