Working with their partners in the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, Iraq’s security forces have made significant progress in the mission to liberate all of the territory ISIS once held in Iraq.
Speaking recently in Erbil, Iraq, Special Presidential Envoy for the Coalition Brett McGurk called the “historic cooperation” between the Iraqi Security Forces and the Kurdish Peshmerga “essential” to the recent victories against ISIS, also known as DAESH.
Mr. McGurk took note of the cost of the fight on our “heroic” partners, who have sacrificed so much in this fight. “The Peshmerga have suffered almost 2,000 martyrs in this overall campaign, and the Iraqi forces have probably suffered five time more,” he said. “The sacrifice from the Kurdish Peshmerga is something that we, the United States, and the entire world really honor. We extend our condolences to the martyrs and to the families, and similar [condolences] to all those lost on the side of the Iraqi Security Forces.”
Special Envoy McGurk emphasized that the battle against ISIS is not over, and pointed to the upcoming fight in the northern city of Hawija where it is estimated some hundreds of ISIS fighters remain in control of the city. He urged continued cooperation between the Peshmerga and the Iraqi Security Forces so that ISIS’s hold on Hawija is “rooted out in a smart way.
Mr. McGurk noted the political disagreements between Kurdish leaders and the government in Baghdad, including over a proposed independence referendum later this month by the Kurdistan Regional Government.
The United States does not support the referendum. In a press statement, the White House said, “Holding the referendum in disputed areas is particularly provocative and destabilizing. We therefore call on the Kurdistan Regional Government to call off the referendum and enter into serious and sustained dialogue with Baghdad, which the United States has repeatedly indicated it is prepared to facilitate.”
The White House noted that the referendum “is distracting from efforts to defeat ISIS and stabilize the liberated areas.”
Special Envoy McGurk pointed out that the Iraqi Security Forces and the Peshmerga have fought “as brothers” against their common enemy. “It’s very important that we remain united and focused on the efforts to defeat Daesh and ensure they have a lasting defeat…This war is not over. And that’s a critical message…for everybody.”