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Kurdish Delegation In Washington Looks For U.S. Assistance To Fight ISIS


We'll hear next from a representative of one of the few military forces to effectively fight ISIS. They are Kurdish forces in northern Iraq, and they've been asking the United States for help. Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman is the Kurdistan Regional Government's representative to the United States, and she's in our studios. Good morning.


INSKEEP: What do you need from the United States, if anything, that you're not getting?

RAHMAN: We are getting a great deal from the United States, and we're grateful for that. And that is one of my key messages. We're thankful to the United States. We're thankful to President Obama for standing by us when we were attacked by ISIS. What we're asking for is assistance to help our peshmerga forces to continue that fight. And the biggest problem that we face right now is our big economic financial crisis. And this is where we need the assistance of the United States.

INSKEEP: So you have economic trouble as well as military trouble. I've been interested in reading the accounts of fighting from northern Iraq. Of course, the U.S. provides air support, but you also hear the Kurdish forces described as lightly-armed as compared to ISIS on the ground. Is that true?

RAHMAN: It is true. It's unfortunate that even though the Kurdish peshmerga are part of Iraq's defense system, we haven't really been equipped and trained to the same degree as the Iraqi forces. That's now changing thanks to the U.S.-led coalition. But really what we're - the problem that we're facing today is not just the issue of weapons. It's really very basic - we have a financial crisis. We're not able to pay salaries on time. So we have peshmerga forces fighting at the front, they go home, they realize that their families haven't received their paychecks for three months, and they're struggling. And I think that's very demoralizing for our soldiers. But they also need what I call nonlethal equipment - so equipment to help with unexploded devices. They need winterization - by that I mean boots, helmets, clothing for winter. It's basic stuff that we need now because of the lack of financial wherewithal that we have missed now.

INSKEEP: Do you essentially need the U.S. government to write you a check?

RAHMAN: That would be great, but I don't think U.S. taxpayers would be very happy with that. I think we need to recognize that it's in the mutual interest of the United States and Kurdistan and Iraq to support us, whether that's in cash - of course we welcome that - but also in kind. As I said, we need equipment. It's not just weapons. It's training. We're getting that, we're grateful. But it's the very basics that our peshmerga need. But I should also mention that not only we have a financial crisis, we're fighting ISIS, extremism and a murderous organization. We're also taking care of close to 2 million displaced people and refugees. That's a huge responsibility.

INSKEEP: May I ask also - because, of course, Kurdistan is its own region, there are always questions about whether Kurds would at some point devolve away from Iraq, declare independence from Iraq. Has this conflict driven you closer to or further from the central government?

Just about 30 seconds here, I'm sad to say.

RAHMAN: OK, well, I don't know if we're closer to or farther. We're closer in that we have a common enemy, and everybody's priority is to defeat ISIS. In other ways, you know, Baghdad is struggling. It's not necessarily their fault. Iraq is facing enormous difficulties. But what unites us is our willingness to fight ISIS and to be a strong ally to the United States.

INSKEEP: Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, Kurdish Regional Government representative to the U.S. Thanks very much.

RAHMAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.