A Peshmerga soldier stands watch in the fight against ISIS. File photo: Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The United Kingdom has acknowledged the Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi forces for their roles in the fight against ISIS, as Iraq and others declared the country free of the extremist group on Sunday, but made no mention of the Kurds' efforts.
"The UK, as a Coalition member, has played a leading role in supporting the Iraqi Security Forces, including the Armed Forces and the Peshmerga, in the fight against Daesh," read a statement from British Prime Minister Theresa May, who used another term for ISIS.
As a founding member of the US-led international anti-ISIS coalition, the UK said it launched more than 1,350 air strikes in Iraq and trained more than 60,000 forces in Iraq.
"Daesh no longer hold significant territory in Iraq or Syria. This signals a new chapter towards a more peaceful, prosperous country," added May.
She cautioned that "whilst Daesh is failing, they are not yet defeated" and made mention of last week's visit to Baghdad where she met with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
Abadi's formal declaration of victory over ISIS omitted any reference to Kurdish Peshmerga contributions in the three-plus year ISIS war.
“I am hailing all the victorious. The brave forces such as the army, police, security forces, Hashd al-Shaabi, counter-terrorism forces, air force and pilots, and all the divisions of the armed forces who supported us, including engineer and medical teams and our supporters from the tribal forces and people in the liberated areas, those who supported their army,” Abadi stated.
His omission of the Peshmerga drew quick condemnation from Kurdistan.
“Unfortunately, Mr. Abadi, once again failed to act as the prime minister and sidelined the role of the brave of Peshmerga while the whole world witnessed that the Peshmerga, before all the armed forces of Iraq whom were named by Abadi, managed to defeat the myth of ISIS,” the Peshmerga Ministry responded.
A statement from the US State Department offering "our sincere congratulations to the Iraqi people and to the brave Iraqi Security Forces" also omitted Kurdish contributions to the war effort.
More than 1,846 Peshmerga gave their lives in the ISIS fight and another 10,000 were wounded. Iraqi forces have not released their casualty figures.
The Netherlands did recognize the "milestone" reached by Iraqi and Kurdish forces.
"[I] applaud Haider al-Abadi, the Iraqi people, armed forces and Peshmerga that they can mark today as a milestone in the fight against ISIS. But ISIS is not yet gone," wrote Halbe Zijlstra, the Minister of Foreign Affairs for the Netherlands.
"The Netherlands and anti-ISIS Coalition remain committed to a stable, safe Iraq. With a vital role for Baghdad [and] Erbil," he added.