Acting Minister of Peshmerga Affairs Karim Sinjari and US acting Assistant Secretary of Defense Elissa Slotkin signed a Memorandum of Understanding in Erbil on Tuesday. Photo: Courtesy of Kurdistan Regional Presidency
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region--A Memorandum of Understanding on the military coordination between the Kurdistan Region and the United States was signed in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Region, on Tuesday.
This is a landmark agreement for the Kurdistan Region, forming a partnership with the United States separate from Baghdad. The memorandum is intended to encompass the war against the Islamic State, with the liberation of Mosul an initial focus.
“President of the Kurdistan Region Masoud Barzani received the US department of defense delegation headed by Elissa Slotkin, the acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs. This meeting was followed by a telephone conversation between President Barzani and [US Secretary of Defense] Ashton Carter,” reads a statement issued by the Kurdistan Region Presidency.
In the memorandum, the United States committed to provide more military and financial support to the Peshmerga forces on the frontlines and also to provide support for the Peshmerga in the war against the Islamic State, with particular focus on the Mosul operation.
“The memorandum makes references to military and financial support to the Peshmerga forces and also to some of the details of the Mosul operation,” according to the Presidency statement.
The agreement was signed by the KRG acting Minister of Peshmerga Affairs Karim Sinjari and the US acting Assistant Secretary of Defense Elissa Slotkin.
The main focus of the meeting between Slotkin and the Kurdish officials was preparation for the operation to liberate Mosul from the Islamic State (ISIS) and the role of the Peshmerga in the battle.
The American delegation stressed their position that the Peshmerga are a crucial force in the upcoming major offensive. “The Peshmerga forces will play an essential role in the Mosul operation just as they have played similar roles in other operations against ISIS,” said Slotkin during the meeting.
For President Barzani, the main concern is to be prepared for after the battle. He acknowledged the “urgency of the liberation of Mosul and used the opportunity to reiterate his position of the extreme importance of planning for post liberation Mosul,” reads the Presidency’s statement.
A day earlier, on Monday, President Barzani discussed the situation during a telephone call with the US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter. They conferred over latest developments in the fight against ISIS on the frontlines, collaboration between the Peshmerga, coalition and Iraqi forces, and also US support for the Peshmerga.
Carter affirmed the US commitment and continued support for the Peshmerga forces and expressed his delight with the cooperation between Peshmerga and Iraqi forces and their progress on the battlefield.
In return, Barzani thanked Carter for supporting the Peshmerga forces in the fight against ISIS, especially direct US support to the Peshmerga.
Also on Tuesday, Barzani received Canadian Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan in Erbil, where the two discussed the war against the Islamic State and Canada’s contribution to the fight, including preparation for the liberation and post-liberation of Mosul.
The American commitment and support to the Kurdistan Region and the Peshmerga goes back to beginning of the war on ISIS. A day after Islamic State militants made advances towards Erbil the US stepped in and showed its commitment to protect Kurdistan.
“Today I authorized two operations in Iraq -- targeted airstrikes to protect our American personnel, and a humanitarian effort to help save thousands of Iraqi civilians who are trapped on a mountain without food and water and facing almost certain death,” said US President Barack Obama on August 7, 2014.
“To stop the advance on Erbil, I’ve directed our military to take targeted strikes against ISIL [ISIS] terrorist convoys should they move toward the city,” he added.
Barzani, in the Washington Post a few days after Obama’s presidential order, affirmed the importance of foreign participation in the fight against terrorism and expressed his appreciation for the support the US had given to Kurdistan and asked Americans to again help the Kurds.
“We are the United States’ staunch allies in the region, and we have the only force in the area with the means and will to protect thousands of lives from the horrors that these terrorists bring. But we cannot do it alone,” said President Barzani on August 10, 2014.
“We are thankful to our friends on Capitol Hill and in the White House for the support that they have given us over the years. Only because the situation is absolutely urgent do we humbly ask our friends to help us again.”
Since the beginning of the war with ISIS, there has been a steady traffic of US high level military and civilian delegations to the Kurdistan Region and US-KRG [Kurdistan Regional Government] relations entered a new phase in their strategic and special relationship.