IRBIL, Iraq (AP) — Iraqi Kurdish forces will only stay in Syria “temporarily” to help reinforce fellow Kurds fighting to defend the town of Kobani from militants with the Islamic State group, an Iraqi Kurdish politician said Sunday.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Nechervan Barzani, prime minister of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish Regional Government, said involvement of Kurdish peshmerga fighters in Syria isn’t intended to achieve any political goals, but rather, is geared at the short-term goal of aiding fellow Kurds in the embattled town along the Syrian-Turkish border.
“Our role is to back up the people who are struggling on the ground in Kobani,” he said. “I don’t… expect major changes in the political equation of the region as a whole.”
Iraqi peshmerga fighters entered Kobani via Turkey Thursday — the first from a group of 150 Kurdish troops on their way into the town, activists said. The IS group’s offensive on Kobani and nearby Syrian villages has killed more than 800 people, activists say. The Sunni extremists captured dozens of Kurdish villages and control parts of Kobani. More than 200,000 people have fled into Turkey as a result.
Barzani said the American government played a role in influencing Turkey to allow Kurdish peshmerga troops to travel by land via Turkey to Syria as the conflict between Syrian Kurdish fighters and the IS group intensified in the border town. Turkey had been reluctant to open the border to allow members of the Syrian Kurdish militia — known as the People’s Protection Units, or YPG — to travel through Turkish territory to reinforce Kobani because it believes YPG is affiliated with the Kurdish PKK movement in southeastern Turkey that has waged an anti-government insurgency.
“For peshmerga forces to move from Iraqi Kurdistan and march across Turkish soil to help Kobani… we all know that it was a difficult decision,” Barzani said of Turkey’s decision to grant passage to Iraqi Kurdish forces. “This wouldn’t happen without the Turks.”
Barzani acknowledged that peshmerga fighters still face a difficult battle against IS at home with fighters looking to retake towns across northern Iraq. He called upon the Iraqi military to offer more support to Kurdish forces battling the extremist group inside Iraq.
“We are still waiting for (Baghdad’s) response to send forces, but they didn’t send any forces so far,” he said.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press