According to the Kurdish Regional government’s Secretary General of the Ministry of Peshmerga, Jabar Yawar, the United States has begun paying the Peshmerga’s monthly salaries with an allocated fund of $365 million. Yawar told local media during a press release, “This year, the US will assist the Peshmerga with $365 million contribution. It’s expected these funds will be delivered phase by phase from Sunday onwards. These funds will be dedicated to pay salaries of 14 brigades of the Peshmerga ministry and training centers, which consist of nearly 36,000 Peshmerga,” and, “The assistance which the US has dedicated to the Peshmerga for 2018 will not be delivered to the Kurdistan Region all together. The funds, $365 million, will be dedicated to monthly salaries of nearly 36,000 Peshmerga. The funds will be deposited to the Kurdistan Region’s finance ministry monthly, which is 26 billion Iraqi dinars.”
While the agreed on budget was realized this past October, it has only just now come into effect. Original concern was that the United States DOD budget made no mention of the Kurdish Peshmerga Forces but instead solely centered around funding the Iraqi Security Forces. With the anti-Islamic State operations winding down for the autonomous Kurdistan region and the United States, the concept of lessening financial support efforts was a realistic issue to the KRG. The Iraqi Security Forces have traditionally been the primary recipients of the U.S.’s foreign aid efforts for the region in way of arming and funding.
The 2019 budget that is being proposed is aiming to locate $850 million to develop a new Iraqi border security force supported by way of U.S. training and equipment. While the Peshmerga could be seen as a component in this and receive a portion of the operational sustainment funds, they would ultimately fall under the Iraqi Security forces at that point. The requested budget by the Pentagon has not yet been approved and is still up for revision at this point though.
The Ministry of Peshmerga’s confirmation of the funding is no doubt good news to the Kurdish people in uniform but the Kurdish Regional Government is concerned by the shrinking contributions by the United States. The 2017 Peshmerga salary budget was $415 million, $50 million more than the amount allotted for this year and a direct reflection of the ISIS war coming to a close.
The Peshmerga are a permanent part of the newly formed 2005 Iraq constitution and were instrumental in halting the Islamic States advance in 2014. As the war progressed, the Kurdish Regional Government and it’s forces begun receiving financial and military based aid from the coalition spearheaded by the United States. Leadership from within the Kurdish community and government have routinely called for continued U.S. support in an effort to professionalize the Peshmerga and Kurdistan’s security forces.