A Kurdish Peshmerga firing doshka machine-gun into an ISIS-controlled village on the Khazir front east of Mosul. Photo by Farzin Hassan
WASHINGTON DC- Following a controversial statement by the Iraqi prime minister earlier this week that Kurdish Peshmerga forces must not advance towards Mosul when the battle for that city is launched, Mark Toner, deputy US State Dept. spokesperson said that the Peshmerga must be under the command of the Iraqi government.
“I think it’s absolutely important, and we’ve emphasized this all along, that the Peshmerga and all the various fighting groups in Iraq need to be under the command and control of the Iraqi Government and the Iraqi military.” Toner told Rudaw at a press briefing on Thursday.
“I think that there just needs to be closer coordination between – and we’ve encouraged that and, indeed, it has taken place. Thus far, there have been these meetings as they look towards Mosul, and frankly, the next steps in liberating Iraq from ISIL.” Toner added.
The deputy state dept. spokesperson went on to acknowledge the vital role the Peshmerga forces have played in the wear against the Islamic State (ISIS) in the last two years.
He said: “There needs to be that coordination mechanism. But we certainly recognize, and we’ve said so many times, the vital role that these groups, including the Peshmerga, play and have played thus far and showed tremendous courage in liberating parts of Iraq that have been under the control of ISIL.”
Toner explained that US efforts continue to bring the Kurds and Iraqis together into a united front for the battle of Mosul.
“We engage regularly with Kurdistan Regional Government and Baghdad to advocate and encourage a unified front in the face of the continuing threat of Daesh or ISIL, and in fact, we hold and have held joint planning sessions between the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional President Barzani and the national security advisor for the Government of Iraq, and I think one took place last week.” Toner said. “It was the second, I believe, of these meetings, and the intent here of those meetings is to try to build that kind of partnership and to work through some of the challenges as Iraqi forces writ large look towards the liberation of Mosul.”