Falah Mustafa: ‘We told the Americans that this is a war against terror and we could not possibly go to this war all alone.’
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region - The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has officially asked the United States for armed assistance as it steps up the fight against militant jihadists who have declared their own state in conquered territories in Iraq and Syria.
Falah Mustafa, the KRG foreign minister (head of foreign relations), said that the US missions in Baghdad and Erbil had taken the Kurdish appeal “seriously” and “promised to intently look into the case.”
“We told the US representatives that the time for action has come and that the US should change its Kurdish policy from showing gratitude to showing us direct support,” Mustafa told Rudaw.
His comments came as the Kurdish Peshmerga forces, that have been a bulwark against the IS advancing into Iraq’s Kurdish-populated areas, reported receiving advanced heavy weapons and said they were ready to go on the offensive against the jihadis.
In Washington, the State Department said the US had joint operations centers in Erbil and Baghdad which were helping the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and Kurdish Peshmerga commanders by sharing intelligence information.
IS militants launched a massive attack on Kurdish-controlled areas on Sunday morning, capturing the important oil cities of Shengal and Zumar, 50 kilometers from the Syrian-Kurdish border. Heavy losses were reported on both sides.
Kurdish military officials say the Peshmarga fighters will urgently need heavy weaponry and ammunition in order to go ahead with an offensive against the jihadists.
“We told the Americans that this is a war against terror and we could not possibly go to this war all alone,” Mustafa said.
“Christians and the Yezidis must be protected. We do not wish to face this war alone. The international community must act and the US should take its responsibility. We need advanced weapons and ammunition to fight the terrorists,” he added.
The KRG defense ministry said scores of heavily armed Peshmarga troops were rushed to the frontlines on Sunday and that many more would follow.
“It is a vast area,” said Jabar Yawar, a ministry spokesman. “We need a lot of troops to protect and cover almost 40 kilometers of land.”
Yawar said tanks, mortar launchers and armored vehicles have now been stationed in surrounding areas, awaiting an order from the Kurdish president for an attack he described as imminent and all-encompassing.
Shengal and Zumar fell to the IS just days after KRG President Massoud Barzani visited the frontlines and promised troops they would have advanced weapons.
In a related development, sources told Rudaw that a number of wounded Kurdish Peshmarga fighters ended up in IS captivity, after being handed over by local Arab tribes in the Zumar area.
A Kurdish commander, who wished to remain anonymous, told Rudaw that the Arab tribes in the area had turned against the Peshmarga forces after the attacks.
“We were advised by the local people here that these tribes were collaborating with the ISIS,” he said.