The Kurdish Peshmerga, one of the premier forces fighting Islamic State in northern Iraq, is buckling under budget deficits to the point it hasn’t been able to pay its troops for months.
The Peshmerga was one of the first forces to bring the fight to ISIS while the terrorist group was rolling over the traditional Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) for two years. The Peshmerga continue to fight ISIS along the northern front near Iraqi Kurdistan and the key northern city of Mosul. Though they have seen some success, the Kurds are now running out of money, meaning the coalition fighting ISIS could lose one of its most important fighting forces just as they are starting to regain ground.
“We need direct budgetary support,” said Qubad Talabani, the deputy prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), while speaking Wednesday at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracy’s Washington Forum, making them one of the “most vulnerable entities in the coalition.”
Talabani noted the Kurds are hemorrhaging money fighting ISIS. The KRG is currently operating on a “$100 million deficit per month.”
Joining Talabani on the panel was KRG Interior Minister Karim Sinjari, who noted the Kurdish budgetary problems have gotten to the point where the Peshmerga have not been paid their salaries for some months. Though he noted desertions and morale have not been a particular problem, he and Talabani both said if the U.S. wants the Peshmerga to be maintain its effectiveness, U.S. aid must be provided as soon as possible.
Kurdistan operates in a unique space. Located in northern Iraq, Kurdistan is ethnically, culturally and linguistically unique from the rest of Iraq. The KRG operates its own military (the Peshmerga), has its own legislature, prime minister, president and even a representative who operates as the de facto KRG ambassador to the U.S.
The Peshmerga’s monetary problems come at a crucial time in the fight against ISIS on the Iraqi northern front. Coalition forces have laid the ground work for a potential invasion of Iraq’s second largest city of Mosul for months. Unfortunately, the ISF push has faltered and its forces have been spread thin as ISIS has engaged in guerilla tactics across Iraq. Should the Peshmerga also lose momentum, the fight to roll back ISIS could continue for years to come.
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