Pen­tagon chief hails Pesh­merga as “model for Iraq”

Ash­ton Carter com­mended Pres­i­dent Barzani on the bat­tle­field suc­cesses that Pesh­merga have achieved against the ISIS.

The Kurdish Globe - - FRONT PAGE -

Pen­tagon chief Ash­ton Carter said dur­ing a visit to Kur­dis­tan Fri­day that the au­ton­o­mous Re­gion's Pesh­merga force was a model for the rest of Iraq in its fight against the ter­ror­ists.

The US De­fence Sec­re­tary, on the sec­ond day of his first visit to Iraq since tak­ing of­fice ear­lier this year, praised the ef­forts of what is the Re­gion's de facto army.

"We are try­ing to build a force through­out the ter­ri­tory of Iraq, and some­day in Syria, that can do what the Pesh­merga have achieved," Carter said.

He was speak­ing in the Kur­dish cap­i­tal Er­bil in front of mem­bers of the US-led coali­tion de­ployed in Kur­dis­tan to help push back the Is­lamic State group.

Ear­lier, he met with the Kur­dish Pres­i­dent Massoud Barzani.

Carter "com­mended Pres­i­dent Barzani on the bat­tle­field suc­cesses achieved on the ground in co­or­di­na­tion with the US and coali­tion air power", a Pen­tagon state­ment said.

Sev­eral high-rank­ing Kur­dish mil­i­tary of­fi­cials at­tended the talks with Carter.

The threat posed to Er­bil by an IS ad­vance early last Au­gust was one of the rea­sons cited days later by US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama for an­nounc­ing US air strikes.

An in­ter­na­tional coali­tion has since de­vel­oped and car­ried out thou­sands of air strikes, many in sup­port of Pesh­merga forces fight- ing the IS.

On Thurs­day alone, coali­tion air­craft con­ducted 19 strikes across Iraq, in­clud­ing 10 in ar­eas where Pesh­merga fight­ers are in­volved in the bat­tle.

More than 1,200 Pesh­merga have been killed fight­ing IS, which last year swept into sev­eral ar­eas con­trolled by the Kurds, who are now try­ing to take them back.

The coali­tion has re- peat­edly stressed that air strikes were use­ful only if car­ried out in sup­port of well-or­gan­ised ground of­fen­sives.

Carter ex­pressed his frus­tra­tion in May af­ter Iraqi gov­ern­ment forces, which had held on for al­most 18 months in Ra­madi, the cap­i­tal of the western province of An­bar, com­pletely buck­led and lost the city.

"We have an is­sue with the will of the Iraqis to fight ISIL and de­fend them­selves," he said at the time, us­ing another acro­nym for IS.

More help for Bagh­dad

Carter was in Bagh­dad Thurs­day and said the United States was ready to do more to help gov­ern­ment forces re­con­quer the ground they lost last year but added that the army needed to shape up.

"We are will­ing to do more... when and if (the Iraqis) de­velop ca­pa­ble, mo­ti­vated forces of their own that can take and re­tain ter­ri­tory," he said as he met some of the 3,500 US mil­i­tary train­ers and ad­vis­ers in Iraq.

Iraqi forces are up­ping the pres­sure on IS in its strong­hold of An­bar, a vast Sunni province which stretches from the out­skirts of Bagh­dad to the borders with Syria, Jor­dan and Saudi Ara­bia.

Iraqi troops and paramil­i­tary forces have largely en­cir­cled Ra­madi as well as Fal­lu­jah, the province's other main city, paving the way for ma­jor of­fen­sives.

Re­la­tions are strained be­tween the fed­eral gov­ern­ment in Bagh­dad and the au­ton­o­mous ad­min­is­tra­tion in Kur­dis­tan.

Barzani, whose forces have de facto seized sev­eral oil-rich, con­tested ar­eas on the back of last year's IS of­fen­sive, has threat­ened to or­gan­ise a ref­er­en­dum on in­de­pen­dence.

Carter stressed dur­ing his meet­ing with the vet­eran Kur­dish leader Fri­day that Washington's as­sis­tance to Kur­dis­tan as part of the war against IS would not by­pass Bagh­dad.

"The sec­re­tary also noted that the United States would con­tinue work­ing by, with, and through the gov­ern­ment of Iraq to sup­port Kur­dish forces in the fight against the ISIL," the Pen­tagon state­ment said.

Af­ter his meet­ings in Kur­dis­tan, Carter left Iraq for Tur­key, af­ter a week­long tour of the Mid­dle East that also took him to Is­rael, Jor­dan and Saudi Ara­bia.

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