US to sign new military deal with Iraq’s Kurdistan region

Top Washington official Barbara Leaf urges unity during visit to Iraq to resolve outstanding issues

US soldiers on patrol an area near Syria's north-eastern Semalka border crossing with Iraq's Kurdish autonomous territory in 2021. The US has retained a combat presence in Iraq since 2003 to provide assistance in its war against ISIS. AFP
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The US is expected to sign a new deal with Iraqi Kurdistan Region’s military forces to enhance security in the region.

Since 2003, Washington has retained a combat presence in Iraq to provide security assistance to both Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government, and Baghdad in its war against ISIS.

It has also played a powerful role in mediating talks between Iraq’s Kurds and Baghdad’s central government. Both sides have failed to reach an agreement over the distribution and share of the country's natural resources.

“The KRG Ministry of Peshmerga will soon sign a memorandum of understanding between the ministry and US Department of Defence,” the head of the KRG's Foreign Media Affairs, Lawk Ghafuri said in a statement given to The National.

The deal will provide “more military training for the Peshmerga forces through the US-led coalition force," Mr Ghafuri said.

In 2017, Iraq announced victory over ISIS, with the support of the Peshmerga troops, paramilitary forces and the US-led air coalition, after three years of fighting.

ISIS cells are thought to be conducting operations in the desert regions of northern and western Iraq, near the border with Syria.

The global coalition to defeat ISIS said unity between the two sides was crucial to defeating the terror group.

"Our ongoing combined efforts and co-operation with our KRG Ministry of Peshmerga partners are critical to achieving the enduring defeat of ISIS and promoting regional stability," Operation Inherent Resolve, the joint task force created to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria, said.

"We remain committed to our advise, assist, enable mission. Stronger together," the forces said on Twitter, following a meeting with officials from the Peshmerga ministry.

It comes as Barbara Leaf, the US assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, conducted a visit to Iraq this week during a regional trip.

During a meeting with KRG President Nechirvan Barzani, the US official emphasised Washington’s commitment to his government and the central government in Baghdad.

"We are committed to working with the KRG to address mutual challenges and create opportunity for both peoples," the US State Department said.

"Assistant secretary Leaf emphasised the importance of unity among the Kurdish parties in forging a more secure, democratic and prosperous future for their people."

The visit to Iraq comes as officials are caught in a political deadlock over a long-standing government formation process that has turned deadly.

More than 30 people were killed and 400 injured last week in clashes between supporters of Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr and armed forces.

In a meeting with Masoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, one of the most powerful Kurdish political parties, Ms Leaf discussed the urgency of resolving Iraq’s political impasse "in an inclusive way".

"They agreed leaders should work towards a solution that benefits all the peoples of Iraq and strengthen the sovereignty, stability and security of the country," the US State Department said.

Updated: September 10, 2022, 3:18 PM