The flag of Kurdistan which Peshmerga uses as their emblem, uniform patch, and battle flag alongside the Iraqi flag.
|Size||275,000 (2017 estimation)|
|Minister of Peshmerga Affairs||Mustafa Qadir Mustafa Aziz|
|Chief of Staff||Lieutenant General Jabar Yawar|
Peshmerga (Central Kurdish: پێشمەرگە, translit. Pêşmerge, lit. 'Before death', IPA: [peːʃmɛɾˈɡɛ]) are the military forces of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan. The overall formal head of the Peshmerga is the President of Iraqi Kurdistan. The Peshmerga force itself is largely divided and controlled separately by the Democratic Party of Kurdistan and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, although both pledge allegiance to the Kurdistan Regional Government. Efforts are under way to gather the entire force under the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs. Peshmerga forces are responsible for defending the land, people and institutions of Iraqi Kurdistan.
Because the Iraqi Army is forbidden by law from entering Iraqi Kurdistan, the peshmerga, along with other Kurdish security subsidiaries, are responsible for the security of the Kurdish Region. These subsidiaries include Asayish (official intelligence agency), Parastin u Zanyarî (and Dzha Terror) (assisting intelligence agency) and the Zeravani (military police).
In 2003, during the Iraq War, peshmerga were said to have played a key role in the mission to capture Saddam Hussein. In 2004, they captured key al Qaeda figure Hassan Ghul, who revealed the identity of Osama Bin Laden's messenger, which eventually led to Operation Neptune Spear and the death of Osama Bin Laden.
Following a large-scale Islamic State offensive against Iraqi Kurdistan in August 2014, peshmerga and Kurdish forces from neighboring countries have been waging war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in both Iraq and Syria.
- 1 History
- 2 Structure
- 3 Equipment
- 4 Vehicles
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 Further reading
- 8 External links
The Kurdish warrior tradition of rebellion has existed for thousands of years along with aspirations for independence, and early Kurdish warriors fought against the various Persian empires, the Ottoman Empire and the British Empire. However, the term "peshmerga" was only coined in the mid-20th century, by the Kurdish writer Ibrahim Ahmad. Peshmerga means "one who confronts death" or "one who faces death". "Pesh" means to stand in front of (loosely translated as to confront or face) while "merga" means death.
Historically the Peshmerga existed only as guerilla organizations, but under the self-declared Republic of Mahabad (1946–1947), the peshmerga led by Mustafa Barzani became the official army of the republic. After the fall of the republic and the execution of head of state Qazi Muhammad, peshmerga forces reemerged as guerilla organizations that would go on to fight the Iranian and Iraqi governments for the remainder of the century.
In Iraq, most of these peshmerga were led by Mustafa Barzani of the Kurdistan Democratic Party. In 1975 the peshmerga were defeated in the Second Iraqi-Kurdish War. Jalal Talabani, a leading member of the KDP, left the same year to revitalize the resistance and founded the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. This event created the baseline for the political discontent between the KDP and PUK that to this day divides peshmerga forces and much of Kurdish society in Iraqi Kurdistan.
After Mustafa Barzani's death in 1979, his son Masoud Barzani took his position. As tension increased between KDP and PUK, most peshmerga fought to keep a region under their own party's control, while also fighting off Iraqi Army incursions. Following the First Persian Gulf War, Iraqi Kurdistan saw the Kurdish Civil War between the two major parties, the KDP and the PUK, and peshmerga forces were used to fight each other. The civil war officially ended in September 1998, when Barzani and Talabani signed the Washington Agreement establishing a formal peace treaty. In the agreement, the parties agreed to share revenue and power, deny the use of northern Iraq to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), and not allow Iraqi troops into the Kurdish regions. By then, around 5,000 had been killed on both sides, and many more had been evicted for being on the wrong side. In the years after, tension remained high, but both parties moved towards each other and in 2003 they both took part in the overthrowing of the Baathist regime as part of the Iraq War. They remained on good terms, forming a government of Iraqi Kurdistan. Unlike other militia forces, the peshmerga were never prohibited by Iraqi law.
In 2015, for the first time, peshmerga soldiers received urban warfare and military intelligence training from foreign trainers, the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve.
The number of troops affiliated with the Kurdish Peshmerga forces has exceeded 200,000 members. These forces are organized into 36 military brigades, controlled separately with little to no inter-coordination, by the KDP, PUK and Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs.
The peshmerga force, like much of Iraqi Kurdistan, is plagued by frequent allegations of corruption, partisanship, nepotism, and fraud. These allegations include giving high-ranking military positions only to fellow clansmen and/or party members, fighting for political parties rather than the Kurdish people as a whole, and the use of "ghost soldiers" to gain peshmerga benefits and salary. Much of this is due to the fact that peshmerga forces are still unofficially divided along the main party lines, although with arguably less tension than during the Kurdish Civil War. Peshmerga with ties to the Kurdistan Democratic Party are responsible for the Dohuk Governorate and Erbil Governorate, while those with ties to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan oversee the security in Sulaymaniyah Governorate. Following the June 2014 ISIS invasion of Iraq and the retreat of the Iraqi Army, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) filled the void and took control of almost all disputed areas. These areas have since also been divided between KDP and PUK peshmerga.
As a result of the split nature of the peshmerga force, there is no central command center in charge of the entire force, and peshmerga units instead follow separate military hierarchies depending on political allegiance. Efforts have since been made to minimize partisanship, including the banning of partisan flags from the battlefield. A political reform is also currently underway to place the entire force under the single command of the regional government. As of January 2015, 14 brigades have reportedly been put under the control of the KRG, with the remaining of peshmerga forces still controlled by the regions' two main parties.
Due to limited funding and the vast size of the peshmerga forces, the KRG has long planned to greatly downsize its forces from large numbers of low-quality forces to a smaller but much more effective and well-trained force. Consequently, in 2009, the KRG and Baghdad engaged in discussions about incorporating parts of the peshmerga forces into the Iraqi Army, in what would be the 15th and 16th Iraqi Army divisions. However, after increasing tension between Erbil and Baghdad regarding the disputed areas, the transfer was largely put on hold. Some peshmerga were already transferred but reportedly deserted again, and there are allegations that former peshmerga forces remain loyal to the KRG rather than their Iraqi chain of command.
While the majority of the peshmerga forces are Muslims, there are also Assyrian Christian and Yezidi units fighting under the direction of peshmerga forces, such as the Êzîdxan Protection Force.
Although almost entirely made up of men, peshmerga forces have been known to include small numbers of women since its formation, and currently have 600 women in their ranks. In the KDP, these female peshmerga have so far been refused access to the frontline and are mostly used in logistics and management positions, but female PUK peshmerga are deployed in the front lines and are actively fighting ISIS.
The units under command of the Ministry of Peshmerga:
- 14 Regional Guard Brigades (RGB) are under the command of the ministry of peshmerga: 42,000 fighters.
- Êzîdxan Protection Force HPÊ, led by Haydar Shesho: 4000 fighters
- Shingal commandment led by Qasem Shesho (Yazidis): 10,000 fighters
The units under command of the KDP politburo, unofficially called Yakray 80:
- 80 Force units, technically part of Peshmarga ministry: 58,000 fighters.
- Zeravani units, administratively supported by the Ministry of the Interior: 51,000 fighters.
The units under command of the PUK politburo, unofficially called Yakray 70:
- 70 Force units, technically part of Peshmarga ministry: 56,000 fighters.
- Defense emergency force, technically under the ministry of interior of KRG: 10,000 fighters.
The peshmerga arsenal is limited and confined by restrictions because the Kurdish Region is not an independent state. Due to disputes between the KRG and the Iraqi government, arms flow from Baghdad to Iraqi Kurdistan has been almost nonexistent, as Baghdad fears Kurdish aspirations for independence. Peshmerga forces instead largely rely on old arms captured from the old Iraqi Army during the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, in which peshmerga forces were active.
Before that, some weapons were also captured during the 1991 Iraqi uprisings. Following the retreat of the new Iraqi Army during the June 2014 ISIS offensive, peshmerga forces reportedly again managed to get hold of some weapons left behind by the Army. Since August 2014, peshmerga forces have also captured some weapons from ISIS.
After the ISIS offensive of August 2014, multiple governments decided to arm the peshmerga with some light equipment, such as light arms, night goggles and ammunition. However, Kurdish officials and peshmerga have stressed that they are not receiving enough. They also stress that Baghdad is blocking even small arms from reaching the KRG, emphasizing the need for weapons to be sent directly to the KRG and not through Baghdad.
|Name||Country of origin||Type||Caliber||Notes|
|Denel Y3 AGL||South Africa||grenade launcher||40×53mm||1|
|AGS-30||Soviet Union||grenade launcher||30x29mmB||1|
|AGS-17||Soviet Union||grenade launcher||30x29mmB||12|
|Mk 47 Striker||United States||grenade launcher||40×53mm||1|
|Mk 19||United States||grenade launcher||40×53mm||1|
|M203 grenade launcher||United States||grenade launcher||40×46mm SR||123|
|M79 grenade launcher||United States||grenade launcher||40×46mm SR||12|
|GP-25||Russia||grenade launcher||40 mm|
|Name||Country of origin||Type||Caliber|
|Vasilek||Soviet Union||Mobile Mortar||82mm|
|M1938 mortar||Soviet Union||Mortar||120mm|
Man-portable air-defence systems
|Name||Country of origin||Type||Caliber|
|SA-7 Grail||Soviet Union||MANPADS||72 mm|
|SA-16 Gimlet||Soviet Union||MANPADS||72 mm|
|SA-18 Grouse||Soviet Union||MANPADS||72 mm|
|SA-24 Grinch||Soviet Union||MANPADS||72 mm|
|FIM-92 Stinger||United States||MANPADS||70.1mm|
Logistics and utility vehicles
|Name||Country of origin||Type||Notes|
|2S1||Soviet Union||122mm self-propelled artillery|
|BM-21 Grad||Soviet Union||122mm multiple rocket launcher|
|M-198||United States||155mm howitzer||1|
|M101 howitzer||United States||105mm howitzer||1|
|85 mm divisional gun D-44||Soviet Union||122mm Field gun|
|D-30||Soviet Union||122mm howitzer|
|M-30||Soviet Union||122mm howitzer|
|D-20||Soviet Union||152mm gun-howitzer||1|
|M-46||Soviet Union||130mm field gun||1|
|D-74 122 mm field gun||Soviet Union||122mm Field gun|
|Ordnance QF 25-pounder||United Kingdom||87.6mm gun-howitzer||12|
|Type 63||China||107mm multiple rocket launcher|
|Name||Country of origin||Type||Notes|
|ZSU-23-4||Soviet Union||23mm self-propelled anti-aircraft gun|
|ZSU-57-2||Soviet Union||57mm self-propelled anti-aircraft gun 12|
|Type 63||China||37 mm self-propelled anti-aircraft gun1|
|ZPU||Soviet Union||14.5mm anti-aircraft gun 12|
|20mm Mle F2||France||20mm anti-aircraft gun1|
|ZU-23-2||Soviet Union||23mm anti-aircraft gun1[|
|KS-30||Soviet Union||130mm anti-aircraft gun]]|
|S-60||Soviet Union||57mm anti-aircraft gun||pictures|
|37 mm automatic air defense gun M1939 (61-K)||Soviet Union||37mm anti-aircraft gun|
|Type-65 37mm AAA||China||37mm anti-aircraft gun||1|
- List of armed groups in the Iraqi Civil War
- Kurdish rebellion of 1983 & Al-Anfal campaign
- Sinjar & Persecution of Yazidis by ISIL
- "Over 150,000 enlisted as Peshmerga troops in Kurdistan Region, official data shows". 3 April 2017. Retrieved 13 August 2017.
- Quil Lawrence (2009). Invisible Nation: How the Kurds' Quest for Statehood Is Shaping Iraq and the Middle East. p. xiii.
- "Remembering Leader Jabar Farman on his 9th Death Anniversary". PUK. Retrieved 11 April 2017.
- Nawzad, Mahmoud (25 August 2014). "Sources: Barzani Orders Peshmerga Forces Reformed, United". Rudaw Media Network. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
- "Summary of the most important tasks of the Ministry of Peshmerga". Ministry of Peshmerga. 12 November 2012. Archived from the original on 12 January 2015. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
- "Iraqi PM criticizes Kurdish region for barring army from Syrian border area". Xinhua News Agency. 28 July 2012. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
- "Information about Kurdistan". Kurdistan Development Organization. 2014. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
- Newton-Small, Jay (31 December 2012). "Destination Kurdistan: Is This Autonomous Iraqi Region a Budding Tourist Hot Spot?". Time. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
- Druzin, Heath (29 September 2013). "Rare terrorist attack in peaceful Kurdish region of Iraq kills 6". Stars and Stripes. Retrieved 13 February 2015.
- Krajeski, Jenna (20 March 2013). "The Iraq War Was a Good Idea, If You Ask the Kurds". The Atlantic. Retrieved 14 February 2015.
- Rai, Manish (6 October 2014). "Kurdish Peshmerga Can Be A Game Changer In Iraq And Syria". Khaama Press. Retrieved 14 February 2015.
- "Operation Red Dawn's eight-month hunt". The Sydney Morning Herald. 15 December 2003. Retrieved 14 February 2015.
- Ambinder, Marc (29 April 2013). "How the CIA really caught Bin Laden's trail". The Week. Retrieved 14 February 2015.
- Roston, Arom (9 January 2014). "Cloak and Drone: The Strange Saga of an Al Qaeda Triple Agent". Vocativ. Retrieved 14 February 2015.
- Lortz, Michael G. (28 October 2005). "Willing to Face Death: A History of Kurdish Military Forces – the Peshmerga – from the Ottoman Empire to Present-Day Iraq". MA Thesis. Florida State University. Archived from the original (PDF) on 27 July 2015. Retrieved 14 February 2015.
- Stratton, Allegra (26 June 2006). "Hero of the people". New Statesman. Retrieved 14 February 2015.
- Koerner, Brendan (2003-03-21). "What does the Kurdish word peshmerga mean?". Slate.com. Retrieved 2016-10-18.
- From the Kurdish pêş (پێش) "before" and merg مەرگ "death".
- Abdulla, Mufid (12 June 2011). "Mahabad – the first independent Kurdish republic". The Kurdistan Tribune. Retrieved 14 February 2015.
- "President". Kurdistan Regional Government Representation in Spain. 2015. Retrieved 14 February 2015.
- Meiselas, Susan (2008). Kurdistan: In the Shadow of History (2nd ed.). University of Chicago Press. ISBN 978-0-226-51928-9.
- Abdulrahman, Frman (23 February 2012). "never ending mystery: what really happened to Kurdish civil war missing". niqash. Retrieved 22 February 2015.
- McDermid, Charles (20 February 2010). "New force emerges in Kirkuk". Asia Times Online. Retrieved 22 February 2015.
- Profile: Who are the Peshmerga? BBC News. Retrieved 19 December 2014.
- "EXCLUSIVE: Coalition helps Peshmerga muscle up on urban warfare". Rudaw. 16 April 2015. Retrieved 17 April 2015.
- Hawramy, Fazel (14 January 2015). "THE DESASTROUS COMMAND-NON-COMMAND-STRUCTURE". MESOP. Retrieved 22 February 2015.
- Parkinson, Joe; Nissenbaum, Dion (2015). "U.S., Allies Training Kurds on Using Sophisticated Weaponry Against Islamic State". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 22 February 2015. (Subscription required (. ))
- "The Peshmerga of Iraq". Aljazeera.com. 1 March 2008. Retrieved 22 February 2015.
- "KRG and the ‘godfathers': 2006 secret US cable on Wikileaks". The Kurdistan Tribune. 8 May 2014. Retrieved 22 February 2015.
- Devigne, Jacqueline (2011). ""Iraqoncilable" Differences? The Political Nature of the Peshmerga" (PDF). NIMEP Insights. Retrieved 22 February 2015.
- "Presidency of the province renews its call to convert the Peshmerga Army National". The I.Q.D. Team Connection. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
- "PUK official warns Peshmerga will not take orders from anyone else: Iraqi Kurdistan". Retrieved 20 March 2015.
- Chapman, Dennis. Security Forces of Kurdistan Regional Government, US Army War College. 2009, page. 3.
- "Jihadist drive allows Iraq Kurds to take disputed areas". ReliefWeb. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
- "Lebanonwire.com - Kurdish Peshmerga Forces Have Room to Grow". lebanonwire.com.
- "Barzani prevents lifting partisan flags in fighting fronts except for Kurdistan flag". Retrieved 20 March 2015.
- "Kurdistan’s Political Armies: The Challenge of Unifying the Peshmerga Forces". Carnegie Middle East Center. Retrieved 16 December 2015.
- "Withdrawal from Iraq". Retrieved 20 March 2015.
- "Iraqi Kurdistan Armed Forces, Peshmerga, to Lose 130,000 Soldiers". Retrieved 20 March 2015.
- "Iraq and the United States". Retrieved 20 March 2015.
- Chapman, Dennis. Security Forces of Kurdistan Regional Government, Us Army War College. 2009, page. 112.
- "1,000 Kurdish soldiers desert from Iraqi army - MIDEAST". Retrieved 20 March 2015.
- "Iraq's Insurgency and the Road to Civil Conflict". Retrieved 20 March 2015.
- "Iraqi Kurds, Yazidis fight Islamic State for strategic town of Sinjar". Reuters. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
- "Rudaw". Rudaw. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
- "Meet the Kurdish women fighting the Islamic State". Telegraph.co.uk. 8 November 2014. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
- "No Frontline Deployment for Female Kurdish Troops". Rudaw. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
- "KRG halts recruiting of female Peshmerga". Rudaw.
- "Meet the female peshmerga forces fighting IS - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East". Al-Monitor.
- Hollie McKay. "Iraq's Peshmerga desperate for US arms in fight against ISIS". Fox News. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
- "Arms for Kurdish peshmerga to affect military balance". DW.DE. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
- "Iraqi Defense Ministry Asks KRG To Return Saddam-Era Weapons - Al-Monitor: the Pulse of the Middle East". Al-Monitor. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
- Hugh Naylor. "As ISIL retreats, Iraqi Kurds gain new ammunition". Retrieved 20 March 2015.
- Richard Spencer, The Telegraph (3 October 2014). "Kurdish forces captured an ISIS base after a two-day siege — but the ISIS fighters inside somehow slipped away". National Post. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
- Nicholas Watt. "UK prepares to supply arms directly to Kurdish forces fighting Isis". the Guardian. Retrieved 23 October 2014.
- "Seven western states join US to arm Iraqi Kurdistan: Pentagon". Retrieved 23 October 2014.
- Spencer Ackerman. "US to directly arm Kurdish peshmerga forces in bid to thwart Isis offensive". the Guardian. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
- "Iraq's Kurds appeal for new U.S. arms to combat Islamic State". Washington Post. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
- "Iraqi Kurds say West not providing enough arms to defeat Islamic State". Reuters. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
- "ISIS-terror im Nordirak". August 2014. Retrieved 2014-09-08.
- "Unterstützung der Regierung der Autonomen Region Irakisch-Kurdistan bei der Versorgung der Flüchtlinge und beim Kampf gegen den Islamischen Staat im Nordirak" (PDF). Bmvg.de. Retrieved 2016-10-19.
- "Weitere Lieferung: Material für Peschmerga". Einsatz.bundeswehr.de (in German). 2016-06-28. Retrieved 2016-10-18.
- "Erneute Materiallieferung in den Nordirak". Einsatz.bundeswehr.de (in German). Retrieved 2016-10-18.
- "Nächste Lieferung: Gewehre und Munition für Peschmerga". Einsatz.bundeswehr.de (in German). Retrieved 2016-11-17.
- Duje Klarić (2014-09-12). "ZARADA U RATU S ISLAMISTIMA Vlada iračkoj vojsci prodaje oružjei opremu vrijednu 700 milijuna kn -Jutarnji List". Jutarnji.hr. Retrieved 2016-10-18.
- U.S. Department of Defense, "Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq" (June 2007) p. 30, 39
- "Weiterer Materialtransport erreicht Nordirak". Einsatz.bundeswehr.de (in German). Retrieved 2016-10-18.
- "ECCO LA LISTA DELLE (POCHE) ARMI ITALIANE AI CURDI - Analisi Difesa". Retrieved 20 March 2015.
- "Mehr deutsche Waffen für Kurden". Handelsblatt.com. Retrieved 2016-10-19.
-  Archived September 11, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.
- "Weitere Munition aus Deutschland im Irak eingetroffen". bundeswehr.de.
- "NRT - Facebook". facebook.com.
- "Peshmerga use HJ-8". 18 December 2014.
- "Irak: Deutschland schickt Kurden Panzerabwehrraketen". Spiegel Online (in German). 31 August 2014. Retrieved 31 August 2014.
- "Germany to Send Advanced Weapons to Peshmerga". BasNews.com. BasNews. 7 February 2015. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
- "Peshmerga Forces Recruit Christian Fighters, says Local Official". Rudaw. Retrieved 23 October 2014.
- "BasNews". Basnews. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
- Middle East Military Balance Archived August 24, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
- "Iraq's T-72s: Payment Received". Defenseindustrydaily.com. 2005-11-14. Retrieved 2014-08-18.
- "shex ja3far puk". YouTube. Retrieved 23 October 2014.
- "German reference". 2014-08-31. Retrieved 2014-08-18.
- "German reference". 2016-09-05. Retrieved 2016-09-27.
- "German reference". 2016-08-17. Retrieved 2016-09-27.
- "Iraq Update: Kurdish Forces well... - International Armored Group (IAG) - Facebook". Retrieved 20 March 2015.
- Holdanwicz, Grzegorz. "Iraqi armed forces get armoured vehicles". Jane's Defence Weekly
- Tim Lister, CNN (9 February 2015). "Kurdish fighters battle equipment woes as well as ISIS in northern Iraq". CNN. Retrieved 20 March 2015.
- "Type 63 Self-Propelled Anti-Aircraft Gun System". Fas.org. Archived from the original on 8 August 2014. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
- "French Giat 53T2 20mm Mle F2 guns delivered to Kurdistan". Europe1.fr. Retrieved 23 October 2014.
- "[ti]SW[/ti]SK Peshmerga". Kurdistanskyscrapers.com. Retrieved 2016-10-18.
- "hurriyet - Kurdish authority buying 16 US-built helicopters from Saudi firm". Hurriyetdailynews.com. 2006-07-19. Retrieved 2014-08-18.
- "Contract to Buy 16 Helicopters Signed by Kurdistan R. Govt. - Media monitor". Ekurd.net. Retrieved 2014-08-18.
- IWPR - Iraqi Press Monitor. "Contract to Buy 16 Helicopters Signed - Institute for War and Peace Reporting - P224". Iwpr.net. Retrieved 2014-08-18.
- Chapman, Dennis P., Lieutenant Colonel USA, Security Forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Mohammed najat, Costa Mesa, California: Mazda Publishers, 2011. ISSN 0026-3141 Reviewed by Michael M. Gunter in Middle East Affairs, Vol. 65, No. 3, Summer 2011.
- Media related to Kurdish Peshmerga at Wikimedia Commons