The United States has sought advice from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) on the situation of Syrian Kurds, Iraqi Kurdish media reported on Dec. 7.
James Jeffrey, the U.S. special envoy to the global coalition fighting ISIS, met with several KRG officials in Erbil to discuss the U.S. support for Kurds and the recent ISIS attacks on Kurdish forces near the Iranian border.
Jeffrey first met with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) leader Masoud Barzani to discuss the latest developments in both Iraq and Syria such as the Iraqi protests, the ongoing threat of ISIS and “prevention of demographic changes” in Syria in the face of the Turkish incursion, Rudaw reported, citing a readout from Barzani’s office.
The U.S. needs “the advice and support” of the KDP leader - who is also the former President of the Kurdistan Region - when it comes to the condition of Syrian Kurds, Jeffrey has said, according to the readout.
Turkey launched an offensive against the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria on Oct. 9, receiving criticism from the U.S. and its Western allies due to the YPG being Washington's main ally in the fight against ISIS.
Had a productive meeting today with a USG delegation headed by amb. James Jeffery where we spoke of the protests in Baghdad and other places in Iraq. We also discussed the situation in Syria and the remaining threat of the terrorists of the Islamic State to Iraq, Syria and beyond pic.twitter.com/qZj5nuODbO— Masoud Barzani (@masoud_barzani) December 7, 2019
The envoy then met with KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani to discuss recent ISIS attacks against Kurdish forces.
“We much admire what you are doing for your economy [and] what you have done against Daesh. We are very sorry for your losses recently in the fight against Daesh,” Jeffrey said, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS.
“[We] will stand with you in this fight and continue to work with you for stability, not just here in Iraq but the entire region,” he told reporters.
The trip follows a series of ISIS attacks against local security forces (Asayesh) and Peshmerga fighters in Kolajo (Golajo) subdistrict in Garmiyan administration, Diyala province – territory disputed by both Erbil and Baghdad.
Alarmed by the potential for further attacks, the KRG’s ministry of Peshmerga Affairs deployed several heavy weapons to the area.
ISIS seized control of swathes of Iraq in 2014, controlling several provinces including Diyala. However, when it neared KRG-held areas in the north, the U.S.-led coalition provided Kurdish forces with aerial support and military equipment to push them back.
Jeffrey was previously in Baghdad on Dec. 5 to meet with outgoing Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi. They both discussed cooperation between Iraq and the U.S. in the fight against ISIS, according to a readout from Abdul-Mahdi’s office.
Prior to his visit to Iraq, the U.S. State Department said that the envoy would “discuss our continued cooperation to ensure an enduring defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria and our ongoing stabilization efforts in areas liberated from ISIS.”
Pentagon doesn't rule out sending additional troops to Syria
U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper, meanwhile, said that the U.S. doesn't rule out sending additional troops to Syria.
"But nothing in terms of the numbers – 14,000 - it's just a completely false report," Esper said on Dec. 6 as he flew to California.
"Every commander wants more and more capabilities, wherever they are. But right now we believe we have sufficient capability in the theater to deter what we've needed to deter."
He added that he regularly reviews requests but stressed that "right now, there is no 14,000 person request to deploy forces."
Esper's remarks on the issue were the most extensive since the Pentagon on Dec. 4 strongly denied a Wall Street Journal report that the United States was considering sending as many as 14,000 additional troops to the region.