US directly arms Iraqi Kurds to fight ISIL: Officials

US directly arms Iraqi Kurds to fight ISIL: Officials
Tue Aug 12, 2014 10:31:29

Senior American officials say US intelligence agencies are directly arming the Kurds who are battling the ISIL Takfiri militants in what would be a shift in Washington's policy of only working through the central government in Baghdad.

The United States has increased its role in fighting back the extremist group that is threatening the autonomous Kurdish region in the north.

US warplanes carried out new strikes Sunday, hitting a convoy of ISIL militants moving to attack Kurdish forces defending the autonomous zone's capital, Erbil.

The recent American airstrikes have helped the Kurds achieve one of their first victories after weeks of retreat as peshmerga fighters over the weekend recaptured two towns near Erbil.

The US weapons being directly sent to Erbil are very limited in scope and number, and mostly consist of light arms like AK-47s and ammunition, a Kurdish government official and a senior Pentagon official said.

The Kurdish official said the weapons are being sent through US intelligence agencies, and not the Pentagon or the State Department. Lt. Gen. William Mayville, the operations director for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Pentagon was looking at other ways to help the Kurds.

But the Kurdish official said the US lethal aid is still not enough to battle the militants, even though peshmerga and other Kurdish forces were supplemented with similar munitions from Baghdad over the weekend. Neither official was authorized to discuss the US arms by name and spoke on condition of anonymity.

US airstrikes have reinvigorated Iraqi Kurdish forces battling the ISIL and on Sunday, the Kurdish peshmerga fighters retook two towns — Makhmour and al-Gweir, some 28 miles (45 kilometers) from Erbil — from the Takfiri militants.


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