Hussein Yazdanpana, leader of the Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK). Photo courtesy of Yazdanpana
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region—American and European military advisers have trained members of the Iranian Kurdish group the Kurdistan Freedom Party (PAK) alongside Peshmerga forces in weapons and explosives for their participation in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) on several occasions.
PAK leader Hussein Yazdanpana told the Associated Press: “They helped and trained us within the framework of the fight against Daesh,”
Members of the Iranian Kurdish group have been fighting ISIS on several fronts alongside the Peshmerga forces of the Kurdistan Region since the region went to war with the extremist group two years ago.
The Peshmerga have received ammunition and training from several coalition countries including the United States, UK, France, Canada and Germany.
The AP report describes the training of the PAK fighters as “a further twist in the complex web of alliances and enmities swirling around the wars in Iraq and Syria. Iran is a powerful backer of the Iraqi government and Iraqi Shiite militiasagainst the Islamic State group.”
Yazdanpana allays any fears that training his group was for their fight against the Iranian government, saying that it was merely for their role in combating ISIS in Iraq.
He stressed meanwhile that fighting ISIS would not shift their focus from fighting for their rights in Iran.
A number of Kurdish groups from outside the Kurdistan Region joined forces to help the Peshmerga to defend the borders of the autonomous Kurdistan Region in the summer of 2014 when ISIS militants launched a multi-front offensive against the Kurds in Nineveh and Kirkuk.
Among these groups were PAK and the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI). They have acted under the auspices of the Peshmerga Ministry, which some believe justifies the training by the coalition forces.
AP quoted Italian Army Capt. Giulio Macari, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition in Erbil that PAK received training “since Western advisers offered help all to Kurdish militias under the ministry's control.”
“Macari said the coalition did not choose the groups that it was training.”
Yazdanpana said that though his fighters wear uniform similar to those of the Peshmerga they also wear their group’s orange badge and that the trainers "no doubt" knew the identity of his group.
“PAK fighters had three rounds of training by American advisers between March and September 2015 at the front line where they are deployed in central Kirkuk province. The group's fighters went through further rounds of training later alongside other Iraqi Kurdish fighters, he said. PAK fighters control some 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) of front-line territory west of the Iraqi city of Kirkuk as well as some positions east of the city of Mosul.” Yazdanpana was quoted as saying.
The report of the trainings by American advisors to all groups “without distinction” on the front near Kirkuk was confirmed by Peshmerga official, Maj. Gen. Karaman Kemal Omar.
According to the report, Maj. Josh T. Jacques, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, said he was "not aware of any training provided by CENTCOM to the Kurdistan Freedom Party militia."