Netherlands making considerable contribution to Kurdish fight against ISIS
‘I’m impressed by the way the government and people of the Kurdish region are putting up resistance to ISIS. The fight in Sinjar and the reception of thousands of refugees are a testament to this,’ said foreign minister Bert Koenders. He was speaking on a visit to Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish Autonomous Region in Iraq, where he met Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, the Head of the Department of Foreign Relations, Falah Mustafa Bakir, and Fuad Hussein, Chief of Staff of the Kurdistan Region Presidency.
Mr Koenders said that the fact that the airstrikes are beginning to have an effect is evident from the successes in the past few days on Mount Sinjar. ‘Hundreds of trapped Yazidis were rescued from their perilous position – luckily before winter well and truly set in,’ he said. ‘The international coalition against ISIS contributed to that success with airstrikes. I have said that the Netherlands is determined to continue contributing to the fight against ISIS. I’m pleased to see that the successful deployment of Dutch F-16s over the past few days and the upcoming training for the Peshmerga are both welcomed in Erbil.’
Mr Koenders also spoke with his hosts about the political embedding of the training mission in Iraq. A preparatory team of 16 military personnel arrived in Erbil this weekend to assess the local situation, guide the further planning process and act as liaisons for the coalition partners and the Peshmerga. This team’s efforts will lead to a detailed plan for the arrival of around 100 Dutch military personnel, who will conduct the training in the Erbil area, which is expected to start in early 2015. ‘I’m impressed by the phased approach taken by our people, in close consultation with the Peshmerga,’ said the minister. The local forces will receive training in handling explosives and in other specific skills that are badly needed. Our embassy office in Erbil is supporting the political embedding of the mission.’
The minister also emphasised the notion that ISIS cannot be beaten by military means alone and that the underlying causes of their success must be tackled, both in Iraq and elsewhere. ‘My Kurdish hosts and I agree that improving relations between Erbil and Baghdad is essential for stability in Iraq and the whole region,’ he said. The recent progress in this area is very hopeful. But we also discussed the human rights situation, the position of women and corruption. These issues cannot, after all, be viewed in isolation.’
Visit to Baharka camp
While visiting the Baharka camp for displaced persons, Mr Koenders spoke with various parties including instructors from the Mines Advisory Group, an NGO which helps communities detect and clear landmines. The Netherlands supports the organisation’s work in several countries, including their activities in the Kurdish region.
During his visit to the city, the minister also met with Dutch Kurds and Dutch expats. ‘They told me their views on the current situation in Iraq and explained the challenges they face,’ said Mr Koenders. ‘Despite the current context of terror, they still saw reason for optimism. I look forward to returning soon to a region where the horrors of ISIS are history and Erbil can develop its great potential.’