U.S. shipping arms to Iraqi Kurdish forces
Washington is working with Iraqi government to aid Peshmerga forces in fight against ISIS
The United States has begun shipping weapons to the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga forces battling an advance by extremist Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants, a U.S. State Department spokeswoman told CNN on Monday.
“We're working with the government of Iraq to increasingly and very quickly get urgently needed arms to the Kurds,” said Marie Harf.
“This includes the Iraqis providing their own weapons from their own stocks, and we're working to do the same thing from our stocks of weapons that we have.”
The U.S. military confirmed earlier that it had carried out another air strike late Sunday against an ISIS convoy it said was preparing to attack Kurdish forces protecting their capital Erbil.
Harf said the effort had been underway since last week, but did not say which U.S. agency was leading the effort or how many and what type of weapons had been sent.
The U.S. has a consulate and other facilities in Erbil, capital of Iraq's Kurdish autonomous region, and last week President Barack Obama ordered air strikes to protect the city.
Efforts to support Kurdish Peshmerga forces could complicate U.S.’s ties to the Iraqi government in Baghdad, which is also fighting the ISIS but has tense relations with Erbil.
But Harf insisted that, in the current crisis, the two sides are working together.
“We have seen an unprecedented level of cooperation between the Iraqi forces and the Kurdish forces. We hadn't seen that in the past. They're helping each other out,” Harf said.
“So any way we can get the very urgently needed arms to the Kurds we are actively working on,” she said.
“We'll work with the government of Iraq to do that, but we believe again there is such an urgent situation that we need to do this.”
U.S. Central Command said that at 2000 GMT Sunday “U.S. fighter aircraft struck and destroyed several vehicles that were part of an ISIL convoy moving to attack Peshmerga forces defending Erbil.
“All aircraft exited the strike area safely,” it added.
Obama authorized air strikes on Thursday, warning that ISIS extremist militants were in a position to threaten U.S. personnel in Erbil and commit “genocide” against minority religious groups.
The first U.S. action was confirmed on Friday, part of what the White House insists will be a “limited” campaign to protect Erbil and Yazidi refugees.