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Necessity of a unified Kurdish Military to combat ISIL

United States of America has intervened to help Iraq maintain stability in the face of a growing international threat — the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL).

This was followed by several European countries showing willingness to equip Peshmerga with advanced weaponry in the war against ISIL.

Peshmerga forces were in a defensive position since June, and acted in the interest of the public by providing security in areas where Iraqi army fled in fear of ISIL. For nearly two months, Peshmerga forces were successful in repelling ISIL offensive attacks on various fronts, including Sinjar in northwest of Mosul, Bashir and Mala Abdullah southwest of Kirkuk, as well as Jalawla.

Peshmerga forces weapons were not as advanced as those belonging to ISIL, which they seized from the Iraqi army. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) explained the Peshmerga setback citing lack of sufficient and modern weaponry, ammunition and reinforcement against a terrorist organisation fighting with cutting edge weaponry. These explanations prove some validity as evidently the Iraqi Government and United Stated of America have refused to arm Peshmerga forces, using Iraq’s territorial sovereignty as justification.

Peshmerga forces have a range of weaknesses based on their recent confrontations and setbacks which must be dealt with immediately by the Kurdistan Regional Government. Efforts must be made towards putting together a robust combating force that is capable of deterring threats against Kurdistan.

Assets and logistics

Peshmerga commanders and soldiers fighting on the front lines in Maktab Khaled, 25 kilometres southwest of Kirkuk, and in Makhmour reveal that they suffer from a lack of high-tech weapons in the face of a terrorist organisation that is equipped. Peshmerga forces do not have modern machine guns, tanks, artillery armoured trucks or sufficient ammunition for artillery barrages during offensive strikes. They also lack the expertise for fixing their arms and providing maintenance.

Peshmerga forces lack experience on the battlefield due to the absence of necessary military training, despite becoming an official army of Kurdistan in 2005, in accordance with the Iraqi constitution. The veteran Peshmerga fighters are likely to be the most experienced among them, but despite experience and courage, high-tech weapons are needed to repel vehicle-mounted militant attacks. More importantly, a significant number of low-rank Peshmerga fighters are young with limited combat experience.

Disposition of forces

Kurdistan Region has sufficient Peshmerga forces, but its disposition is imbalanced. Significant number of Peshmerga forces are arguably over-deployed in areas around and within the outskirts of Kirkuk, along the lower Zab River. Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) Peshmergas are over-concentrated in Kirkuk due to the city’s importance, but this over-concentration has made it easier for ISIL to overtake areas around western Mosul, where the disposition of Peshmerga fighters are considerably smaller.

Kurdistan’s Peshmerga forces belong to two major political parties — KDP and PUK. This has led to numerous accusations surfacing on social networking sites among the supporters of these two different political parties whenever Peshmerga forces have a set back. This is why it is imperative that Kurdistan has a unified Kurdish army that functions independent from party loyalties and politics. The differences between political parties has made it difficult for Peshmerga forces to coordinate efficiently and communicate appropriately.


Peshmerga forces lack the appropriate communication and conveyance of information tools within their units. Information that is often imperative in fighting ISIL must be conveyed in a secure platform, particularly when the information is classified. Peshmerga forces share border with ISIL militants and this requires timely, as well as adequate communication among the commanders of operations. War strategies and tactics can change very quickly, and it might require more reinforcement or even the re-disposition of units. The absence of such communication channels for conveyance of the latest developments on the ground has many drawbacks.


  • Assets and logistics are decisive but using them effectively is indispensable too. Therefore, training is a requirement
  • Contingency plans are necessary and constant communication with other units prior to an operation.
  • Peshmerga forces should be trained to avoid “panic” during surprise attacks.
  • KRG should unify Peshmerga forces and their loyalty must be to Kurdistan, as opposed to political parties.
  • There should be a code of conduct for Peshmergas, enforced by the highest authority.

Shivan Fazil has MSc in advanced computer networks from University of Derby and BSc in Information Technology at University of Kurdistan-Hewler. He is the author of “Cloud computing security”.


3 Comments on Necessity of a unified Kurdish Military to combat ISIL

  1. The worst thing i have figured out that the influences of these two political power in every field of our society are deeply rooted to the extent that they show the wrong things to be right one in people’s eyes and vice versa…It becomes culture in Kurdistan that these political parties are supposed to have their own forces and this is the catastrophe we are facing in the future therefore i appeal to our Kurdish thinkers and educated people to work hard to convince these parties to have only one military representing none of the political parties but only Kurdistan and Kurdish people…

  2. Having served a year embedded in the peshmerga I can say with all confidence that the peshmerga must be modernized. Every army needs to be modernized if it is to be effective. The peshmerga are no different. However, the matter is so complex, so important, and the stakes so high, that their modernization must be deliberately and professionally undertaken. The history, study and practice of warfare demands it.

  3. Indeed, The forces are divided so desperately. This is a weakness. you guys at KPF has provided very good recommendations to Ministry of Peshmerge, I wonder if you have sent it to them in Kurdish.

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