The Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga: military reform and nation-building in a divided polity

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Aziz, Sardar
Cottey, Andrew
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Routledge - Taylor & Francis Group
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During the war against Islamic State from 2014 to 2017 the Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga became important local allies of the United States and its international partners, playing a significant role in the eventual defeat of Islamic State. In 2017, backed by the US and its Western allies, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) agreed plans to reform and modernize the Peshmerga. This article provides an analysis of this reform process. Reform is severely constrained by two problems. First, the continuing soft civil war between Iraqi Kurdistanâ s two main political parties, the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), within which both parties view their maintenance of independent Peshmerga forces as central to their power and political survival. Second, the heroic-mythic status of the Peshmerga within Iraqi Kurdish society, which makes it difficult to convert the Peshmerga into a â normalâ military force. Reform efforts to date have not addressed these issues. Until such time as the deep political divide between the KDP and the PUK is addressed, Peshmerga reform is unlikely to make significant progressâ the military cart cannot be put before the political horse.
Armed forces , Civil-military relations , Kurds , Military reform , Peshmerga , Security assistance
Aziz, S. and Cottey, A. (2021) 'The Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga: military reform and nation-building in a divided polity', Defence Studies, 21(2), pp. 226-241. doi: 10.1080/14702436.2021.1888644