An infusion of American aid to Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi forces will help step up the fight against the Islamic State group in Iraq, Kurdish officials said.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter announced Monday that $415 million in financial assistance would go to Iraqi Kurdish forces as a part of a package to boost the fight against IS militants in the country.
Carter made the announcement during a visit in which he met with Iraqi officials in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. The U.S. is sending eight Apache helicopters to Iraqi forces and will provide more than 200 additional U.S. troops to advise and train select Iraqi and Kurdish forces as they work to try to retake the city of Mosul from IS.
“This [assistance] will only help the Peshmerga and Iraqi forces to continue the war on Daesh [IS] terrorists,” Jabar Yawar, chief of staff of the Kurdistan Region’s military forces, told VOA.
The Kurdish regional government is facing financial difficulties because of a drop in oil prices, and Kurdish forces lack adequate food and military hardware to keep up the fight against IS in northern Iraq. The Kurdish regional government has also had budget disputes with the central Iraqi government.
Yawar told VOA that the U.S. government was aware of the financial situation in the Kurdish Region and said U.S. assistance was “vital” for the Kurdish forces.
The U.S. assistance will be largely used for salaries of Kurdish fighters and for military equipment, Kurdish officials told VOA.
“There must be a mechanism to use this money,” said Jabar Qadir, a Kurdish policy expert based in Irbil, Iraq. “Kurdish forces need financial steadiness to have a winning strategy in the war against Daesh.”
The Iraqi government announced last month that the “process of Mosul liberation” had begun and that the operation to retake the city could take months.
“Kurdish forces have been ready to take Mosul,” Yawar said. “But we need the Iraqi army to be fully prepared and make a decision to begin the process of Mosul liberation.”
A Kurdish delegation visited Washington last week to lobby for more financial support from the U.S.
“We told our U.S. allies that the [financial] challenge we are facing is serious,” Qubad Talabani, the deputy prime minister of the Kurdish Region, who headed the delegation, told VOA.