The armed forces of the Kurdistan Region, known as the Peshmerga, literally ‘those who face death’, are the legal and constitutional regional force responsible for the security of the Kurdistan Region. The Peshmerga are the symbol of the region’s historical resistance against dictatorship, injustice and tyranny.  Since the 2003 Iraq war, not a single US soldier has been killed in KRG-controlled territory. The President of the Kurdistan Region is the Commander-in-Chief of the Peshmerga Armed Forces.

Legal Status of Peshmerga Forces

Article 121 Section 5 of the Iraqi Constitution states “The regional government shall be responsible for all the administrative requirements of the region, particularly the establishment and organization of the internal security forces for the region such as police, security forces, and guards of the region.”

In 2007 the Kurdistan National Assembly further defined and clarified the Peshmerga’s legal basis with the passage of a series of four new Peshmerga laws:

  • Law Number 19 of 2007, Law of the Peshmerga Ministry in Kurdistan Region-Iraq.
  • Law Number 33 of 2007, Law of Recognition of Peshmerga (The Guards of the Kurdistan Region-Iraq).
  • Law Number 34 of 2007, Law of Retirement of Disabled Peshmerga (The Guards of the Kurdistan Region-Iraq).
  • Law Number 38 of 2007, Law of Service and Retirement of Peshmerga (The Guards of the Region).

Unification of Peshmerga Forces

The Peshmerga forces of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in the late 1970s and throughout 1980s separately fought against the Iraqi army. Following the Kurdish uprising of 1991, both sides agreed to unify the Peshmerga forces; however, the outbreak of the intra-Kurdish conflict in 1994 delayed the process for several years.

The unification of the Peshmerga forces of the KDP and the PUK under the ministry of Peshmerga has been a top priority of the Kurdistan Regional Government. The KRG has effectively managed to unify 14 of the existing 18 brigades and remains fully committed to continue the process until all 18 brigades are unified. Following the ISIS attacks on Kurdistan, the General Command of Peshmerga Forces formed Special Forces for Christians, Ezidis and Kakayes under the umbrella of the Peshmerga Ministry.  

The KRG is also closely working with military advisors from the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany to reform and restructure the Ministry of Peshmerga.

War on ISIS

Kurdistan's Peshmerga Forces were engaged in combat operations against ISIS beginning in June of 2014, when ISIS first advanced into northwestern Iraq, capturing Mosul and the surrounding areas. In the years that followed, the Peshmerga forces defended a front line of nearly 650 miles against this most evil enemy, while suffering more than 1,800 martyrs killed and over 10,000 wounded in the fight. With the help of the US-led international coalition, the Peshmerga were able to defeat the myth of ISIS and liberate hundreds of square miles of territory lost to ISIS in the summer of 2014.