Turkish Army’s Special Forces to train Peshmerga

Turkish Army’s Special Forces to train Peshmerga

Sevil Erkuş ANKARA
Turkish Army’s Special Forces to train Peshmerga

Kurdish Peshmerga fighters gather during fighting against ISIL on Nov. 8, 2014 in Kobane. AFP Photo

The Turkish Special Forces, known as the “maroon berets,” is set to launch a training program for the Peshmerga forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq, a Turkish official has told the Hürriyet Daily News.

Turkey has taken steps for the training program in northern Iraq for one month, as part of joint efforts in the struggle against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants in Iraq, who had made serious advances toward Arbil in August.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, meanwhile, visited the Peshmerga’s military training camp in the Diyana and Berseve refugee camp in the district of Zakho on Nov. 21.

Speaking at a joint press conference on Nov. 21 with the KRG’s President Masoud Barzani, the prime minister pledged “all kinds of support” for the security of the Kurdish region in Iraq.

“The security of all of Iraq has vital importance for Turkey. Having a border with Turkey, the KRG’s security is also important. Turkey will lend all kinds of support to the Kurdish region. This is a historical, humanitarian and strategic issue,” Davutoğlu said in reply to a question concerning whether Turkish soldiers had begun training the Peshmerga.

The prime minister said they had discussed the issue of training the Peshmerga with Iraqi Kurdish officials.

“Our support, including this [training], will increasingly continue,” Davutoğlu said.

Intelligence Chief Hakan Fidan accompanied Davutoğlu during his visit to Iraq. The prime minister met with Barzani in Arbil, following his talks in Baghdad on Nov. 20.

Turkey’s participation in training the Peshmerga comes in line with U.S.-led coalition efforts to train Iraqi forces and Iraqi Kurdish fighters against ISIL militants in Iraq. Along with the U.S. officers, the U.K. had already committed a dozen military personnel in October to train Peshmerga fighters.

Turkey recently allowed some 150 Peshmerga forces to cross through Turkish territory to the Kurdish-populated town of Kobane in Syria.

The prime minister described the decision to allow Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga troops through Turkey to Kobane as a “reflection of trust” between Turkey and the Iraqi Kurdish administration.

Along with training the Peshmerga, Turkey and the U.S. are in talks to train and arm moderate Syrian rebels in Central Anatolia. Turkey is considering training Free Syrian Army (FSA) members, including Syrian Turkmens, at the Hirfanlı gendarmerie training center in Kırşehir.