Bomb disposal training for Kurdish fighters – UK Foreign Sec

Bomb disposal training for Kurdish fighters – UK Foreign Sec
Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond says Britain will finance training in state of the art bomb disposal for Iraq’s Peshmerga. The UK has already committed to supporting the training of Kurdish fighters battling the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq.

Speaking from the Kurdish town of Erbil, Hammond said it was “vital” that the UK and other members of the international community support the Peshmerga in a fight which is “our fight too.”

The UK will initially fund training for up to 18 students to counter Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), raising their knowledge to NATO standards. The UK funded a similar course for the Iraqi Security Forces in Baghdad last year.

The Foreign Secretary said “given the threat faced from IEDs, this assistance could prove lifesaving.” He added that the training was only “a small part” of the support the UK was providing Iraqi forces.

Hammond’s statement followed a meeting with Masoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan region of Iraq, where they discussed the Kurdistani response to the IS (formerly ISIS) threat. The Foreign Secretary also held talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi, and the Vice President Nujaifi.

The announcement follows a statement by Defence Secretary Michael Fallon last month saying the UK would donate 40 heavy machine guns and nearly half a million rounds of ammunition to Kurdish fighters. He further said that the Islamic State was “guilty of shocking brutality.”

UK involvement on the ground is accompanied by airstrikes on IS positions by Royal Air Force Tornado GR4s. Over the past two weeks, the RAF has participated in US-led strategic airstrikes in an attempt to halt the Islamic State’s advance, though there has been some criticism of their effectiveness.

Lord Richards, former head of the armed forces, said that airstrikes would not be enough to defeat Islamic State militants.

The decision to “militarily and politically” support the Peshmerga, and Iraq as a nation, comes after widespread Kurdish protests, particularly highlighting the neglect of the town of Kobane. While protests in London and around the UK have remained peaceful, they were violent in Germany and in Turkey, where at least 19 people were killed in clashes between protesters and police.

As more Western governments commit to giving training assistance to the Peshmerga and Iraqi forces, the IS continues to make territorial gains.

On the October 13, the Iraqi city of Hīt, in Anbar province, was abandoned by government troops, Al Jazeera reported. After weeks of fighting, Iraqi forces withdrew to defend an airbase, leaving the Islamic State in complete control of the city.

The Foreign Secretary said he hopes the new training initiative will help protect both troops and citizens in Kurdistan, and play a “small but vital” role in the UK’s involvement in Iraq.