New Units Step Toward Reforming Peshmerga

By Mohammed A. Salih for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Dildar Namiq, 24, is eagerly running up and down a flight of stairs in a two-story office, trying to complete paperwork to join Iraqi Kurdistan's armed forces, known as the peshmerga.

He is one of the more than 600 volunteers who have applied in the last 12 days in this registration center to join three brigades that will be formed soon.

"I'm a taxi driver right now and I want to do something better in my life," Namiq said. He is wearing traditional baggy Kurdish pants and a white shirt. "I want to go to the front lines and fight Daesh," he added, referring to the Islamic State (IS) group by its Arabic acronym.

Despite some setbacks last summer, Kurdish peshmerga have been able to hold their ground against IS along a 1,050-kilometer (652-mile) frontier that stretches from the Syrian border in northwest Iraq to the Iranian border in the northeast.

Kurdish officials are pinning a lot of hope on the new brigades that will be far better trained and armed than existing units.

"These brigades will be the basis for a new professional army that is up to the expectations and needs of Kurdistan people," Saeed Kakayi, an adviser to Kurdistan's minister of peshmerga, told Al-Monitor. "[The plan is] to standardize the peshmerga ranks in terms of military structure, training and weaponry."

The new brigades are a joint venture by the Kurdish Ministry of Peshmerga and the US government, and part of a broader plan to build 12 brigades across Iraq to confront IS. Training could start in August and the three Kurdish brigades will contain slightly over 6,500 soldiers. The United States will provide complete brigade sets to these new units.

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