New York State In-depth

Americans, Kurds Renew Partnership to Fight ISIS

Despite Trump’s gross abandonment of our Kurdish allies, the Biden administration is recommitting to the fight against ISIS.

Assistant Defense Secretary Celeste Wallander met with Iraqi leaders this week to reiterate the U.S. partnership with the nation, and to underscore the U.S. commitment to supporting Iraq in the defeat-ISIS mission.

More on our Kurdish allies

Wallander who is an assistant secretary of international security affairs, also signed an updated memorandum of agreement with Shoresh Ismail Abdulla, the Kurdistan Regional Government minister of peshmerga issues, on September. 21. The agreement provides mutually agreed upon parameters to be followed for four consecutive years, as the U.S. continues to support the peshmerga to fight ISIS operations.

Then, in Baghdad, Wallander met with Iraq Defense Minister Jumah Inad Sadun and other defense leaders. Wallander emphasized the long-term relationship between the United States and Iraq and spoke about ongoing efforts to improve the operational capabilities that Iraq’s Iraqi Security Forces. She and Iraq’s defense officials discussed ways to expand collaboration between the two countries beyond counterterrorism operations to address emerging threats , and to improve cooperation and interoperability.

Wallander then traveled for a visit to Iraqi city of Irbil where she met with Kurdish officials, including Nechirvan Idris Barzani, president of Iraq’s Kurdistan region and commander in chief of the peshmerga.

The memorandum of understanding it signed with the Department of Defense continues the crucial relationship with the peshmerga dating back to the first Gulf War. “For decades, we have worked together based on shared objectives and a common commitment to the mandate that all people deserve dignity, security and the right to seek a better future,” she said during the signing ceremony in Irbil.

The current enemy is the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The terror group burst from the ungoverned regions of Syria in 2014, and swept away the forces that were stacked against it. The Department of Defense first signed an MOU with the Kurdistan Regional Government in 2016 in the year that ISIS controlled large areas over Iraq, to clearly demonstrate DOD’s commitment to the peshmerga as they as well as other Iraqi security forces worked with the global coalition to liberate thousands of people from ISIS terror.

“Since 2014, the U.S.-led coalition has supported Iraq’s fight against ISIS,” Wallander stated. “Together, we liberated more than 50,000 square kilometers from ISIS control, including critical infrastructure and population centers in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, freed more than 4.5 million Iraqis from ISIS terrorism, and provided our Iraqi-Kurdish partners with recovery and stabilization support.”

ISIS has ceased to be a threat to the territories, but it remains as a shadowy terror group that targets the people of Iraq and populations across the entire region. “The United States remains committed to supporting the Iraqi Security Forces, including the Kurdish peshmerga, to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS,” she added.

The new memorandum provides an organizational framework for the assistance to defeat ISIS aid to peshmerga — outlining DOD’s commitment to support and the Kurdistan Regional Government’s commitment to continued reforms that modernize peshmerga forces.

U.S. forces remain in Iraq at the request of the government to advise, assist and enable Iraqi Security forces. “We must continue to work together to protect the gains made against ISIS and set the conditions for the next phase of the fight by denying ISIS even the smallest opportunity to resurge,” Wallander said. “This MOU will guide the Department of Defense’s future assistance to the peshmerga, which is a pillar of the department’s broader ‘D-ISIS’ partnership with the government of Iraq.”

“On this occasion, I want to offer my deep appreciation and respect for the tremendous sacrifices made by members of the peshmerga who gave their lives in the fight to defeat ISIS,” Wallander said. “The United States is cognizant of the cost of victory to the peshmerga, and we are honored to be your partners — on and off the battlefield.”

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