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The Peshmerga Regression

How U.S. Aid Is Undermining Years of Progress Professionalizing the Force

A military officer from coalition forces demonstrates a tin-can telephone during a training session with Peshmerga in the outskirts of Dohuk province, April 7, 2015. Ari Jalal / Reuters

The West, believing that Iraq’s Kurdish forces, known as the peshmerga, are its best hope in Iraq, has been sending them millions of dollars in weapons and training. But because of the way in which those weapons have been channeled to the Kurds, the assistance is undermining the U.S.-led campaign and threatening to undo a decade of progress in turning the peshmerga into a professional force. Ultimately, it will render the Kurds a less effective partner.

The military aid is uncoordinated, unbalanced, unconditional, and unmonitored. Because of the lack of oversight on weapons’ allocation, and because the weapons come with no strings attached, officials can direct them to their own affiliated peshmerga forces, empowering loyalist officers and entangling the rest of the officer corps in petty rivalries. All this distracts the peshmerga from the real task at hand: assessing, preparing for, and countering terrorist threats. To fix

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