November 13, 2014 - 15:31 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Kurdish leaders in Iraq have quietly expanded a request to Washington for sophisticated arms and protective equipment to battle the Islamic State, but American officials have so far rebuffed the appeals out of concerns about defying the Iraqi government, the Washington Post reported, citing Kurdish officials.
The Obama administration’s reluctance to directly arm the Kurdish forces underscores the challenges the United States faces in Iraq, where it is seeking to expand its effort to help Iraqi forces combat militants without upsetting a fragile political balance between the country’s Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds.
A Kurdish official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss official communications, said Kurdish leaders had presented the Pentagon with an expanded request for U.S. equipment, including mine-resistant armored vehicles and technology to counter improvised explosive devices, such as bomb-defusing robots.
The peshmerga, as the militia forces of northern Iraq’s semiautonomous Kurdish region are known, have had some success retaking territory that Islamic State militants seized this summer. But now, Kurdish officials say, the modestly equipped Kurdish force is struggling to respond to the evolving tactics of militants who are increasingly using explosive booby traps and roadside bombs to defend the territory they hold.
“The fighting changed. The style changed,” the Kurdish official said, according to the Washington Post “We started to ask for heavier military equipment.”
Navy Cmdr. Elissa Smith, a spokeswoman for the Defense Department, said the Pentagon had responded to the new Kurdish request on Oct. 15, promising to review it and urging leaders of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to coordinate their requests with the Iraqi government in Baghdad.
Smith said that a coalition of countries allied against the Islamic State had already provided more than 2 million pounds of equipment to help the KRG defend its territory. Most of that has gone through the central government in Baghdad, U.S. officials say.
“Support for all of Iraq’s security forces, including Kurdish elements, will be critical to defeating this threat,” Smith said.
But Kurdish officials say the supplies they have received have comprised only light and medium arms, including ammunition, automatic weapons and artillery rounds. They say heavy arms are needed to combat an adversary such as the Islamic State, which seized large quantities of U.S.-made weapons and equipment abandoned by Iraqi soldiers as the militants advanced this summer.