Kurdistan’s Long Struggle Against Extremism

Major General Sirwan Barzani is a Kurdish military commander in charge of the Ministry of Peshmerga’s Sector 6, tasked with the defense of Erbil. He is also the founder of Korek Telecom, an Iraqi Kurdish mobile operator. You may follow him on Twitter @SirwanBarzani_.

The United States and its allies did not create Daesh by invading Iraq or not intervening militarily in Syria.

This simplistic viewpoint has created a mistaken belief that Daesh can be defeated whilst the United States ends the combat mission in Iraq. The driving force behind the decision is a feeling that American foreign policy towards the Middle East has exacerbated the region’s problems and that U.S. interests are now best served by turning attentions elsewhere.

This is not true. Peshmerga and Coalition forces were only able to dismantle Daesh’s caliphate because of American forces. Yet, despite significant setbacks, the group is far from defeated. Ending the combat mission will not kill off the group and doing so will cause American interests to suffer, emboldening Daesh and militia groups who will pounce on the gaps left by American forces, throwing the region—and American foreign policy—further into chaos.

The Peshmerga are growing deeply concerned that the group has started carrying out an increasing number of terrorist activities across the region in an attempt to rebuild its operating base. There are still a significant number of active Daesh fighters in Iraq, with many more in prison and refugee camps. Jihadis are provided with the ability to orchestrate attacks across the world when they are allowed to create stable operating environments. We have seen this in Afghanistan, in the Arabian Peninsula where the extremist group operates under the name Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and of course, with Daesh in Iraq and Syria.

Peshmerga and U.S. Bravery

Eight years ago, the Peshmerga were confronted by the gravest threat since the evil of Saddam Hussein’s armies and chemical weapons. After the fall of Mosul, our unenviable task was to prevent the region from being overrun by the black-flagged columns of Daesh fighters who had defeated an Iraqi army numbering tens of thousands.

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