Sweden is home to some 100,000 Kurdish immigrants
STOCKHOLM, Sweden – Sweden is considering sending 20 military experts specialized in defusing land mind and for close combat training, as part of Stockholm’s earlier commitment to support multinational coalition forces in the fight against Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq.
The taskforce, if approved by the Swedish parliament, will only be engaged in training missions inside the Kurdistan Region where German and British military personnel have set up special training camps for Peshmarga forces.
“We are currently preparing a draft which will be presented at the Riksdag (parliament) and will address the issue of deploying military staff to Iraq and Kurdistan Region for training purposes,” Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven said last Wednesday at the opening session of the Riksdag.
A visiting Kurdish delegation in Stockholm last week welcomed the initiative and said the support was needed.
“The Peshmarga can be trained in so many ways when these forces arrive in Kurdistan,” Falah Mustafa, the head of foreign relations of the Kurdistan Regional Government, told Swedish Radio.
“The war against Islamic State is not a conventional warfare fought only on the frontlines. ISIS has no respect for human values and frankly the Peshmerga have no experience in combatting such an immoral enemy,” Mustafa added.
According to Kurdish military officials most ISIS militants are potential suicide bombers who recklessly attack Peshmarga positions with explosives attached to their vehicles or bodies.
The operation to recapture Jalawla and Saadiya last year was infamously delayed since militants had reportedly placed land mines throughout the cities, which made it hazardous for the Peshmerga to enter the cities.
Around 750 Peshmerga troops have been killed and another 4,000 wounded in the war that started in August last year.
“There is a strong Kurdish lobby in Sweden that could mobilize the public opinion here to step up support,” Mustafa said. “Every bit of help is welcome,” he added.
But the Swedish support for the Kurdish struggle against the jihadists has so far been more humanitarian than military. The former Swedish foreign minister who visited refugee camps in Erbil in September last year said the Swedish aid agency (SIDA) will allocate the bulk of its budget for 2015 to help some 3 million refugees in Iraq and Turkey.
The serving Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Walström said her country had comprehensive experience in humanitarian missions, and that is why they had focused on relief efforts in the Kurdistan Region.
“But now is time for military support,” Walström told Swedish radio. “With our Finnish partners and under the supervision of the German army we will support forces, including the Kurdish Peshmerga forces that fight against the ISIS,” she added.
Sweden, home to one of the largest Kurdish communities in diaspora, has been under increasing pressure to step up support for Kurdish forces battling ISIS. Five members of the Swedish parliament are of Kurdish origin, representing around 100,000 Kurds who live in Sweden.