The Peshmerga go unpaid as the Kurds are stiffed by the Iraqi government.
The most important and effective fighting partner in the global coalition against Islamic State is facing economic collapse. Through no fault of its own, the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) is unable to pay the salaries of its employees, including the famed Peshmerga fighting force.
The Peshmerga, who are holding the front line in the global effort to defeat Islamic State, or ISIS, have now gone without paychecks for three months. According to Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, the KRG representative to the U.S., the Kurdish “economic situation is grim.”
Much of the blame lies with the Iraqi central government in Baghdad. For the past few years, that government has refused to pay the KRG the requisite negotiated 17% of Iraq annual oil income, a pact enshrined in the Iraqi Constitution. Only some $2 billion of the $12 billion a year owed by Baghdad has been released to the regional government in 2015.
The U.S. and its coalition partners also bear some responsibility, since the Baghdad government’s refusal to honor its obligations to the KRG is no secret. International pressure on Baghdad should have been brought to bear long ago.
In mid-November the Peshmerga liberated the ISIS-
held city of Sinjar
The problem becomes more urgent every day because ISIS now controls 30% of Iraq. The Peshmerga maintain a 700-mile front against the Islamic jihadists and in mid-November liberated the ISIS-held city of Sinjar in an operation that was expected to take weeks but instead was accomplished in two days. Thousands of ISIS fighters have been killed by the Peshmerga, in coordination with U.S. and coalition airstrikes and targeted U.S. Special Forces operations.
What’s more, the Peshmerga are fighting and beating ISIS even while they are vastly outgunned. Although promises of upgrades are being made, the Kurds typically fight with 40-year-old Kalashnikovs and standard-grade civilian trucks, while ISIS is using the thousands of U.S.-supplied modern armored Humvees, tanks and howitzers looted from Iraqi military barracks they have overrun.Read the rest of the WSJ op-ed HERE.
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