Tuesday, August 12, 2014

It's about time

U.S. sending weapons directly to Kurdish forces, officials say.
The U.S. government has begun to funnel weapons directly to Kurdish forces fighting Islamist militants in northern Iraq, deepening U.S. involvement in a conflict that the Obama administration had long sought to avoid.
The arms pipeline, which one former U.S. military official described as a trickle, opened in recent days as the Kurds’ pesh merga fighters have struggled to stem advances by Islamic State forces that have swept across northern Iraq.
The weapons are being supplied by the CIA, according to two U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the Obama administration has not publicly acknowledged the spy agency’s involvement.
“They need everything, especially heavy weapons,” said the former U.S. official, who is working closely with Kurdish leaders. While arms have started flowing to Kurdish forces near the city of Irbil, the official said Kurds in the vicinity of the key city of Sulaymaniyah have yet to receive any U.S. support.
The U.S. military has conducted a handful of airstrikes on Islamic State targets in recent days, but Kurdish leaders have complained that they are outgunned and unable to mount a counter-offensive without more American assistance.
The U.S. government has previously sold billions of dollars of weapons to the government of Iraq. Many of those American-supplied arms ended up in the hands of Islamic State fighters as they routed Iraqi army units across the country last month.
American officials have tried to expedite the transfer of arms from the government in Baghdad to Kurdish fighters in the north, but that process has gone slowly, prompting Washington to open a direct pipeline to the Kurds. The CIA declined to comment.

A U.S. military official said the Pentagon and State Department were discussing other possible ways to deliver weapons to the Kurds via open channels, but that they would need special legal authorization. Normally U.S. arms sales are restricted to sovereign or central governments.
With Iraq's central government on the verge of a complete collapse and the Kurds essentially controlling their own state, that may not be legal barrier much longer.

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