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Iraq border concerns spur effort to integrate Kurdish and Iraqi Army forces

Kurdish forces are receiving instruction at the Iraqi Army’s training center in what officials call a breakthrough aimed at easing tensions and securing Iraq's vulnerable border with Iran.

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Kurdish Peshmerga cadets attend a 28-day course at an Iraqi military base in Kirkuk ,150 miles north of Baghdad August 10. The Iraqi army is training more than 100 Peshmerga cadets, the armed forces of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Thaier al-Sudani/Reuters

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In this disputed city, Kurdish forces are being trained by Iraqi Army instructors in what officials call a breakthrough aimed at easing tensions between the two sides and securing Iraq’s vulnerable border with Iran.

The program at the training center on the Kirkuk military base is part of a painstakingly arranged plan by US commanders here to integrate elements of the Kurdish pesh merga – fighters who battled Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi government forces – into the central government’s Iraqi Army.

Border security has taken on heightened importance with the prospect of the US completely withdrawing by the end of next year and increasing acknowledgment that the current Iraqi Army would have a hard time defending the country on its own.

“The Iraqis realize they have to get the Iraqi Army focused on defending the sovereignty of Iraq,” says Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero, the commanding general in charge of training and advising Iraqi security forces. “There is a realization that we have to move on and start doing this and get as far down the road as we can in the next 16 months,” he says in an interview with the Monitor.

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