Aacting Minister for the Peshmerga Karim Sinjari announces reforms alongside British consulate-general to Erbil Martyn Warr at a ceremony hosted by the British Consulate, July 31. Photo: Rudaw video
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Reforms to the Peshmerga ministry will reunify the 70 and 80 unit forces to create a single, centrally governed, modern army, acting Minister for the Peshmerga Karim Sinjari told reporters at a ceremony in Erbil on Tuesday.
The 70 Unit forces, controlled by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and the 80 Unit forces, controlled by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), are the main pillars of the Peshmerga ministry.
Speaking at an award ceremony at the British Consulate in Erbil, Sinjari said no party would obstruct this process, set in motion by Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and former Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani.
The Peshmerga Reform Department is the first step towards wider reform, he said.
“Practical steps are underway for the reunification of both the 70 and 80 unit forces of the Peshmerga ministry and the reforms program in the Peshmerga ministry has kicked off.”
“We hope Britain continues to support the Peshmerga. The Peshmerga fought on behalf of the world and we continue this battle,” Sinjari added.
The “strategic” project will not be “an easy job” and will take time, he stressed.
“We are taking advantage of the experience of countries for reform in the Peshmerga ministry. Through this program, we will reunify the Peshmerga forces.”
Western allies and members of the anti-ISIS coalition are assisting the Peshmerga to carry out reforms in order to professionalize the force.
US, British, and German military advisers are assisting with the restructuring in a long term plan that will span 10 years.
British Consul General to Erbil Martyn Warr, who hosted Tuesday’s ceremony, said the reform process will be slow, but stressed it will make the Peshmerga independent and self-regulating.
“This will take time. There’s a sense that this will all happen tomorrow – the answer is no. It will take a long time,” Warr told reporters.
British Consul General to Erbil Martyn Warr speaks to reporters, July 31. Photo: Rudaw video
“There are 35 points – they will take many, many years to implement. We’ve started to build capacity so that in time the Peshmerga are able to reform themselves and not rely upon external influence and advisors. So our job at the moment is to build that internal capacity.”
The focus of the reforms is to modernize the armed forces of the Kurdistan Region to face modern day threats, Warr explained.
“It’s to turn the Peshmerga into a force that is more able to face the threats of today, but also the future. It was not comprehensible for us to imagine the Peshmerga and other forces would face a threat of the sophistication of Daesh [ISIS] over the last few years,” he said.
“The threats get more complicated all the time and the task of the reform programme is to provide the Peshmerga with the human capacity to respond to those threats. It’s not about equipment – it’s about human capacity.”
Asked whether the UK government will involve Baghdad in the reform process, Warr said it is Erbil that is constitutionally responsible for the Peshmerga.
“To a certain extent we’ll be operating with Baghdad, but above all with the Kurdistan Regional Government. That is the government that is formally and constitutionally responsible for Peshmerga affairs, and here is the minister who has that responsibility. We will be working hand-in-hand with the minister,” he said.
Steve Fagin, the newly appointed US Consul General to Erbil, echoed his British counterpart’s words.
“This is critical for the Kurdistan Region to push forward these reforms. We’re there supporting this but we recognize it will take time to implement all of them because this is a rightfully very ambitious programme," he said.
Last updated 1.58 p.m.