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Straight to the peshmerga

Interview: Sven Pöhle / glb
September 4, 2014

Germany will begin delivering arms and equipment to the peshmerga, Kurdish fighers from northern Iraq currently fending off the "IS" terror group. DW discussed the deliveries with a liason officer on the ground.

Image: Reuters

DW: This Thursday, the first cargo plane will take off from Germany for northern Iraq. What is on board?

Florian R.: The first military transport to northern Iraq is carrying 9,500 pieces of equipment. We are talking about helmets, walkie-talkies, binoculars and protective vests. There are no weapons in this first delivery.

Before the plane makes it to Irbil, it will have to make a stop in Baghdad. There are fears this could delay the delivery, or even that some supplies won't be allowed through. Are those fears justified?

The supplies will be loaded in Germany and won't be unloaded at any point on the way, including Baghdad. There is one soldier on board who will accompany the delivery. Our experience, and that of our allies, suggests there will be no problems in Baghdad.

What happens when the plane lands in Irbil?

We will be able to see right away whether the full shipment has arrived, and the peshmerga will be able to see this as well. Then we will help hand over the supplies. The entire process has been planned with the peshmerga.

Sturmgewehr G3
Arms deliveries are to begin later in SeptemberImage: picture-alliance/dpa

Who will the weapons be handed over to?

The later deliveries, just like the shipments of equipment, will be given directly to the peshmerga. We have already established good contact and had good discussions with them; we have a good idea of how things are done at the Peshmerga Ministry, which is akin to the defense ministry specifically for the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan. The weapons and equipment are initially taken by the logistical department of the ministry and transported to a depot, which we can also access. This means that we can see whether or not the peshmerga are storing the weapons here. We can even monitor when the supplies arrived and when they are shipped out.

Is this enough to ensure that the weapons remain in the hands of those for whom they were intended?

It's not possible for us to track down every rifle. But we can check the depot papers to see when and where each weapon is sent out. You can see which soldiers asked for given weapons, where precisely they were operating, and when each shipment arrived.

Can the Kurds use German weapons properly?

We have sent an array of different weapons and equipment. We are in the process of checking how we can provide training, and there have been discussions with the peshmerga on this. Whether or not we will have to send more troops to assist with this, depends on the knowledge and level of training of the peshmerga.

We certainly can offer on-site training for the weapons and equipment in Irbil. Training that takes more than a few days will have to be conducted in Germany. What's for sure is that we will not hand over weapons if we know they cannot be used. The peshmerga will probably have no problems with rifles, and that training can take place in Irbil. For "Milan" anti-tank missiles, the training will most likely have to take place in Germany.

Irak Treffen im Kanzleramt Waffenlieferung
Florian R. says training courses for advanced weaponry like this may have to take place in GermanyImage: picture-alliance/dpa/K. Schneider/Bundeswehr

What happens if the peshmerga don't hold up their end of the bargain? Berlin has said there will be further tranches, that the weapons will be delivered in three stages.

We will treat each delivery the same way and take measures to ensure transparency. And we will be constantly checking to see that the equipment delivered is indeed necessary. If we notice that certain weapons or equipment are not even getting out of the storage depot in Irbil, then we would consider shifting our priorities.

Has there been regular contact with international partners? France and Great Britain have already begun delivering weapons to the Kurds…

We have met with all other nations that are participating in the delivery of equipment and arms to the Kurds. And we are in close contact, so as to keep an eye on who could deliver certain things more quickly - or indeed slowly. Consultation takes place here on site.

Major Florian R. (who requested DW withhold his surname) is one of six Bundeswehr officers currently stationed in Irbil.