Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani has acknowledged that his government has given training to Syrian Kurds who defected from the Syrian military, in northern Iraq.
“A good number of the young Kurds who fled have been trained. We do not want to interfere directly in the situation, but they have been trained,” Barzani said in an interview with the Qatar-based news outlet Al Jazeera on Monday.
Barzani added that the main goal of the military training was to enable those Kurds to protect their areas in Syria, adding the group has not yet been sent back to Syria but is intended to be deployed there to fill any “security vacuum” as Syrian security forces retreat.
Al Jazeera quoted Barzani as saying that the fighting force, made up largely of Syrian Kurds who deserted the army and made their way across the border, would take its orders from a new high committee formed two weeks ago when two major Kurdish opposition groups put aside their differences.
“They have not been sent to Syria. They are still here -- if this high committee requires them to go, they still could; if not, they will wait for the situation to be sorted out because these people are from these areas and they will go back eventually,” he said. “This was aimed at filling the vacuum that will be created.”
During the interview, Barzani also referred to the role played by the KRG in unifying the Kurdish political forces of Syria.
Meanwhile, Jabar Yawar, the spokesman for the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs of the KRG, dismissed the recent news that the KRG was training Syrian Kurds. “This is not true. There is only one camp in Dohuk, which was established under the control of the United Nations for Syrians, including women and children. This camp is only for humanitarian aid. There is no point in establishing a military camp and sending soldiers to this camp. We don't have any intention of interfering in any country's domestic affairs,” said Yawar.
Syria's Kurds have long suffered discrimination under the Syrian regime and many see in Iraq's autonomous region a place where they can easily settle among people with common roots and language as Syria falls apart.
There have been reports in the past few days indicating that Syrian Kurds have been gaining control over major Kurdish towns and cities near the Turkish border.