The Kurds desperately need an influx of arms and supplies in order to be able to continue to hold their 600-mile long border against ISIS attacks.
The need for weapons has only increased over the past months as the militant group has effectively plundered Iraqi military bases after overrunning cities, Yaroslav Trofimov reports from Kurdish-controlled areas for The Wall Street Journal.
“Peshmerga ammunition stocks are running low and whatever heavy weapons they have are mostly of Saddam Hussein-era vintage,” Trofimov reports, citing Peshmerga commanders.
Currently, Kurdish lines throughout Iraq consist of defences manned by Peshmerga troops armed with outdated weapons with dwindling supplies of ammunition.
And although the Peshmerga have put up an effective defence since previously being driven back by an ISIS offensive last summer, the positions can be easily overrun should ISIS launch a concentrated assault.
“If ISIS combines its forces and pushes into one area with multiple vehicles, they will break through — and then the whole line breaks,” Jamestown Foundation analyst Wladimir van Wilgenburg told the WSJ.
This concern is especially true should ISIS launch a suicide blitz like it had previously done in Ramadi and Mosul. On those occasions, the militants overwhelmed well-defended static Iraqi defensive positions through waves of suicide car bombings that demoralized and ultimately drove back the Iraqi forces.
“There is little defence against a multi-ton car bomb; there is none against multiple such car bombs. … the Islamic State is able to overwhelm once-thought formidable static defences through a calculated and concentrated use of suicide bombers,” The Soufan Group notes. “The Islamic State has neither a shortage of such explosives nor a shortage of volunteers eager to partake in suicide attacks.”
The risk of the Peshmerga being overwhelmed by a similar scenario are likely given the Kurds lack of proper supplies. The US does not directly arm the Kurds: All supplies are routed through the central government in Baghdad, which has been reticent to provide the Peshmerga with all the arms the group may need over fears that Kurdistan may eventually push for independence.
This lack of direct aid has forced the Kurds to lobby the EU directly for medical aid, funding, and military support.
“Today Kurdistan is fighting terrorism with Peshmerga boots on the ground in a war front of more than 100 kilometers, with more than 1,300 Peshmerga murdered and more than 6,000 wounded since the beginning of the conflict,” Kurdistan’s Planning Minister Ali Sindi told the European Parliament, according to Rudaw.
On the ground, Kurdish commanders complained to the WSJ that each loss the Iraqi military suffers directly aids ISIS and further empowers them against the Peshmerga.
“[ISIS] target us with weapons that were abandoned in Ramadi,” Mustafa Sayid Qadir, the minister of Peshmerga affairs told the WSJ. “Wouldn’t it have been better if the Iraqi army had given them to us instead of giving them to ISIS?”
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