A member of the Kurdish Peshmerga pictured in 2015 in Makhmur front, southwest of Erbil. Photo: Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – A senior Peshmerga official has told Rudaw that the potential $295.6 million weapons sale, approved by the US State Department two days ago, aims to establish a unified wireless communication network.
Jabar Yawar, the Secretary General of the Peshmerga Ministry, said that $100 million is to equip two infantry brigades.
Another $100 million, Yawar explained, is to form and unify the ministry’s wireless communication network, to buy spare parts for weapons and military vehicles that had been provided to the Peshmerga, and the rest will go toward training programs.
Yawar emphasized that the Kurdistan Region is to receive the weapons as part of the Americans’ ongoing support for the Kurdish forces.
Kurdistan’s High Representative in the US noted that the US will provide the budget, but it is Iraq that buys the weapons.
“The money that has been allocated for these weapons in part of – they call it Iraq Train and Equip Fund in English,” Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman told Rudaw. “This is money that the US has allocated for arms and training to the Iraqi soldiers, that also includes Peshmerga. The US will give the money to Iraq, but Iraq then has to buy the weapons itself. We can say that the money comes from the US, but Iraq should buy it.”
Under the US 2017 budget, the fund has now been renamed the Counter-Islamic State in Iraq and Levant Fund.
Rahman went on to say that the Kurdistan Region does not pay for the equipment.
“We are not supposed to pay for it. And we do not have money to pay, either. We all know that there is a financial crisis in Kurdistan, and our friends in the US are well aware of that.”
A document from the US Defense Department that explains the justification for the fund argues that the Iraqi and Kurdish forces will not be able to hold onto liberated areas and deny ISIS safe havens if the budget did not get approved.
“If the Iraq security force components... do not receive the necessary training, equipment, advice, and assistance they will not be successful in liberating and holding areas, denying ISIL safe havens and producing an integrated force,” the document released in February 2016 explained, adding that it is a cost-effective means of defeating ISIS and “providing lasting improvements to the security and stability of Iraq.”
The US State Department approved a possible sale of military equipment to the Peshmerga to an estimated cost of $295.6 million, a statement from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency revealed Wednesday.
The sale would include equipment to fully outfit two Peshmerga light infantry brigades and two support artillery battalions, the statement added.
A wide range of equipment was requested for purchase, including machine guns, armoured vehicles, body armour, small arms, chemical weapon detection and protection equipment, medical equipment, MRAPs, and ambulances.
It also includes dismounted and mounted radio systems that are used by the military to establish secure and proper communication.
The sale would assist in the defeat of ISIS, the statement said, adding it would not “alter the basic military balance in the region.”
The sale has not been concluded as of yet.