CBN News, MALA QARA, Iraq — Peshmerga means “those who face death.” They’re Kurdish soldiers, battling the Islamic State in northern Iraq and they’ve made significant gains. Now they say they need more help from America if they are to defeat ISIS.
The Peshmerga are the frontline fighters protecting Iraqi Kurdistan from the Islamic State.
One experienced soldier told CBN News he joined them in 1982. He’s fought in many battles, mostly against Saddam Hussein’s army.
“Fighting against Saddam was different than fighting ISIS. With Saddam, we fought against an army,” he explained. “The ISIS terrorists are cowards because they are killing women and children.”
Other Peshmerga troops agreed with his characterization.
One older soldier insisted, “The Islamic State fighters are terrorists, they are animals. We are fighting for the whole world. We will never, ever kneel down to them!”
Another said he wanted to thank America for its help and he wanted us to know that “ISIS is not a professional army. We’ve been fighting them bravely and defeating them. Thanks be to God.”
CBN News visited Black Tiger camp, the most forward Kurdish army, (Peshmerga) base camp not far from the city of Mosul. The soldiers there told CBN News they can defeat ISIS, but what they really need in order to do that is advanced American weaponry.
Sirwan Barazni is the nephew of the Kurdistan president. He commands the Peshmerga in this part of Iraq.
“My sector is more than 130 kilometers long, but we don’t get any new weapons on ground, in our hands,” he said.
“What we need, we need heavy machine weapons. We need the big calibers, we need anti-tanks, we need the same thing our enemy, the terrorists, are using against us,” he explained.
Some of the rifles used by the Peshmerga are more than 30 years old. So, why don’t they have new ones and more advanced weaponry promised to them by the United States?
CBN News’ Gary Lane posed that question to Kurdistan Foreign Relations Director Hemen Hawrami.
“This is our question as well,” Hawrami replied. “Is there a political ceiling that they don’t want the Kurds to be strong enough?”
“So, if there is resistance, where is it coming from — Washington or Baghdad?” Lane asked.
“It’s with both because unfortunately Baghdad is part of the problem; it is not part of the solution so far,” Hawrami explained.
Before stepping aside last year, former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki reportedly gave hundreds of millions of dollars to Shia militias for the fight against the Islamic State.
Current Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has agreed to send $1 billion to the Peshmerga, but that’s for salaries, not advanced American weaponry.
And neighboring countries — Iran and Turkey — fear a well-armed Kurdistan might declare independence from Iraq and then threaten them.
But Jafar Ibrahim Eminki, deputy speaker of the Kurdistan Parliament, told CBN News that stronger Peshmerga forces would be good for those countries by defeating ISIS and bringing stability to the region.
“Though we have made progress in talks with Turkey, we have not convinced them of this. We hope to persuade them that a stronger Kurdistan will help regional security,” he said.
The Iraqi military is fighting to win the city of Tikrit back from the Islamic State. Once Tikrit is liberated, the Iraqi military will set its sights on freeing Mosul from ISIS control. The Kurds say they will join Iraqi forces in the battle if asked.
Hundreds of their Peshmerga troops have already died fighting ISIS, and they say without the advanced weapons they need, many more may die in Mosul and elsewhere in Iraq.
Hawrami asked, “If we give [our] life, why are we not receiving heavy weapons to protect this life and to make a decisive war against ISIS and to make it as quickly as possible?”
Report via CBN News