WASHINGTON - Kurdish forces in Iraq, known as Peshmerga, Sunday criticized Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi for not mentioning the role of Peshmerga in defeating IS in Iraq.
On Saturday, Abadi announced the three-year war aimed at driving Islamic State out of Iraq was successful and has come to an end.
"Our forces are in complete control of the Iraqi-Syrian border, and I therefore announce the end of the war against Daesh [IS]," Abadi said at a conference in Baghdad that was arranged by the Iraqi journalists' union.
IS fighters seized control of nearly one-third of Iraq in the summer of 2014, threatening the very existence of the Iraqi state. Over the past three-and-one half years, however, Iraqi forces backed by the U.S.-led coalition recaptured all of the territory. Peshmerga forces were part of the international coalition that fought against IS.
Peshmerga Ministry claimed in a statement that 1,824 Peshmerga fighters had been “martyred” and more than 10,000 injured in the fight against IS. A statement issued by the U.S. State Department did not mention Peshmerga’s role in the defeat of IS in Iraq, either.
However, the United Kingdom acknowledged the role of Peshmerga, along with Iraqi forces, in defeating the IS group.
"The UK, as a Coalition member, has played a leading role in supporting the Iraqi Security Forces, including the Armed Forces and the Peshmerga, in the fight against Daesh," said a statement from British Prime Minister Theresa May.
"The prestige, respect and love of the Peshmerga fighters and their free families inside Kurdistan and in the world is much greater than one day to be in need of the blessing of Abadi and all those who think and act in this way," the Peshmerga statement added. "So the Peshmerga is neither waiting, nor needs this congratulation, nor the holiday announced on this occasion.”
Speaking to VOA, a Kurdish member of the Iraqi Parliament also criticized the Iraqi Prime Minister for not mentioning “the sacrifices” of Peshmerga forces.
“Iraqi Prime Minister’s speech was sectarian and was directed to certain groups, rather than being for all the Iraqi communities,” Dr. Bakhtyar Shaways, a member of Iraq’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party, said. Shaways also claimed that not mentioning Peshmerga is a violation of the Iraqi constitution, as according to the constitution, Peshmerga are part of the overall Iraqi defense system.
Relations between Iraqi Kurds and the Abadi government deteriorated after the September 25 referendum that resulted in an overwhelming “yes” vote for Kurd independence from Baghdad. The referendum was held in absolute defiance to the Iraqi government.
On November 20, Iraq's Supreme Court declared the vote to be unconstitutional, a decision hailed by Abadi, who said his government "rejected this referendum and refused to have anything to do with it."
VOA’s Kurdish Service also contributed to this report.