BAGHDAD, April 14 (UPI) — The U.S. coalition fighting against the Islamic State in Iraq has begun arming the Kurdish peshmerga with heavy weapons as the battle for Mosul intensifies.
The Kurdish peshmerga have received armored personnel carriers, mortars and anti-tank weapons to combat the Islamic State as the ground assault to recapture Mosul looms.
“We have decided to give them about two U.S. Army brigades-worth of equipment — heavier stuff,” Brig. Gen. John E. Novalis II, who is overseeing coalition training of Iraqi security forces, told Stars and Stripes.
The Kurds have often complained that the weapons they use are inferior to the weapons the Islamic State seized when it drove away Iraqi security forces who left weapons and machinery behind. Iraqi officials have expressed worry that arming Kurds directly could later lead to an increased conflict in the Kurdish ambition to establish an independent Kurdish state.
But U.S. Army Colonel Steve Warren on Wednesday told reporters that any U.S. weapons delivered to the Kurds would be sent through the Iraqi government.
“One-hundred percent of the arms and equipment that we provide goes through the central government of Iraq,” Warren said during a press conference. “There will be times when, of course, there’s coordination … but it all goes through the central government of Iraqi. The central government decides where every piece of equipment goes.”