The regional government of Iraq’s Kurdish region has criticised Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi for not mentioning Kurdish forces in his victory speech over the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group (ISIL, also known as ISIS).
In a conference in the capital Baghdad on Saturday, Abadi hailed Iraq’s “heroic armed forces” for rooting out ISIL.
“Our forces are in complete control of the Iraqi-Syrian border, and I therefore announce the end of the war against Daesh,” Abadi said, using the Arabic acronym for ISIL.
The prime minister’s failure to mention the contribution of Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the fight against ISIL drew quick condemnation from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
“Unfortunately, Mr. al-Abadi once again failed to act as the prime minister and sidelined the role of the [bravery] of Peshmerga while the whole world witnessed that the Peshmerga, before all the armed forces of Iraq whom were named by al-Abadi, managed to defeat the myth of ISIL,” the KRG’s Peshmerga ministry said in a statement.
The Kurdish statement added that ISIL would have wreaked much more havoc on the country had the Peshmerga not halted its advances.
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More than 1,800 Peshmerga fighters were killed in the battle against ISIL and thousands more wounded, the Kurdish Rudaw news agency reported.
Questioning, the Iraqi leader’s omission on Saturday, the ministry added: “How does he expect them [Peshmerga families] and the nation of Kurdistan to have the sense of belonging to Iraq when they see this is how the prime minister acts.”
Iraqi government forces launched an armed campaign against ISIL nearly three years ago.
In a rapid advance in October, Iraqi forces took full control of the oil-rich province of Kirkuk, which Kurdish Peshmerga fighters had seized after the Iraqi army fled a major offensive by ISIL in 2014.
The Kurds found themselves without about 40 percent of the territory they previously held as they withdrew from areas being disputed with Baghdad.
On September 25, people in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq and a number of disputed areas voted in a controversial referendum that found overwhelming support for secession.
The poll, which was declared illegal by the federal government in Baghdad and denounced by neighbouring countries, resulted in 92 percent of people voting in favour of splitting from Iraq.