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Peshmerga ministry confident of continued US funding

By Rudaw 16/8/2017
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Peshmerga ministry confident of continued US funding
Peshmerga forces during a training exercise with coalition allies. Photo: Farzin Hassan/Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The United States will continue to provide millions of dollars in financial assistance to Kurds on the frontlines against ISIS, said the secretary general of the Ministry of Peshmerga, adding that the Kurdish forces’ reform process continues. 
 
“The US assistance is continuing which amounts to 450 million dollars, [and is] dedicated to the salary of a part of the Peshmerga Forces and fuel a part of those forces who are at frontlines,” Lt. General Jabar Yawar said in a statement released on Wednesday.
 
Yawar and his team received a consulting team from the militaries of the United Kingdom, United States, and Germany on Tuesday.
 
The Lt. General “deemed the presence of those teams as the dynamics for the Peshmerga Ministry Reform Process,” a reference to the professionalization of the Peshmerga into an army.
 
In May, the joint defense team from the United States, United Kingdom, and Germany presented a draft plan to Kurdish officials including Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani to help build a “robust and professional” Peshmerga force capable of defending the Kurdistan Region.

The United States has also been financially supporting the Kurdish force, and will continue to do so, Yawar stated, rejecting local media reports that US funding for the Peshmerga will be cut.
 
As evidence, Yawar noted that “US assistances to the Ministry of Peshmerga are still ongoing without any imperfections and defects in the field of trainings, sending weapons and ammunition, air cover and the presence of the US-led coalition advisers within the ministry.”

His office has not been notified via official or unofficial channels of any intent to cut assistance to the Peshmerga, he stated. 

The US draft 2018 defense budget suggested Washington could cut funds to the Kurdistan Region if it secedes from Iraq. 

Last year the US Defense Department allocated $415 million to the Peshmerga to “pay Peshmergas’ salaries and other necessitates,” Yawar said at the time, as the Kurdistan Region was dealing with the triple economic shock caused by the war with ISIS, 1.8 million IDPs and refugees, and a drop in oil revenues.
 
As part of the United States’ $1.5 billion Counter-ISIS Train and Equip Fund (CTEF) for fiscal year 2018 request submitted to congress in May, $289.5 million was requested in line-item support to Kurdish Peshmerga.
 
The US House of Representatives passed the bill and it was introduced to the Senate in July with $1.77 billion for the CTEF. The Senate has not yet passed the bill, however with Republicans in control of the House, Senate, and White House, it can be expected for the bill to be signed earlier than in previous governments.
 
In June, the Kurdistan Region announced it will hold an independence referendum on September 25.
 
The United States first called the timing of the referendum “wrong” due to the ongoing fight with ISIS in places like Tal Afar, Hawija, and elsewhere in Iraq.
 
The spokesperson for the Peshmerga rejected that the referendum would distract from the war against ISIS during a press conference with coalition and Iraqi officers at a coalition meeting in Washington, D.C. in May.
 
“We are ready," said Brig. Gen. Halgurd Hikmat, adding that the referendum is about the future of a people, a political matter that the Peshmerga are not a part of.
 
In a recent interview with Rudaw English, the US commander of the coalition’s Combined Joint Operations Command in Erbil (CJOC-E) called coordination between Iraqi and Kurdish officers at the Joint Coordination Center “amazing.”
 
“They work side by side every day,” said US Army Col. Charles Costanza. “Any request for movement through the KDL and Kurdistan is all done through that Joint Coordination Center there and there are no issues or challenges there at all.”
 

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