QUESTION: So Prime Minister Abadi has said a few things, like about the operation in Mosul. One, he seems to be concerned that the Peshmerga might take more territory from Mosul. He says the Peshmerga, quote/unquote, “shouldn’t pursue” ambitionist expansion – “expansionist ambitions.” What do you make of that?
MR TONER: Well, I would just say that we engage regularly with Kurdistan Regional Government and Baghdad to advocate and encourage a unified front in the face of the continuing threat of Daesh or ISIL, and in fact, we hold and have held joint planning sessions between the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional President Barzani and the national security advisor for the Government of Iraq, and I think one took place last week. It was the second, I believe, of these meetings, and the intent here of those meetings is to try to build that kind of partnership and to work through some of the challenges as Iraqi forces writ large look towards the liberation of Mosul.
QUESTION: He has also said that, “No force” – I’m quoting him – “other than the ISF is allowed to enter Mosul city,” meaning that the Peshmerga is not allowed to enter Mosul city. Is that the understanding the United States has, that the Kurds shouldn’t be allowed to enter the city?
MR TONER: Well, again, I think that there just needs to be closer coordination between – and we’ve encouraged that and, indeed, it has taken place. Thus far, there have been these meetings as they look towards Mosul, and frankly, the next steps in liberating Iraq from ISIL. I think it’s absolutely important, and we’ve emphasized this all along, that the Peshmerga and all the various fighting groups in Iraq need to be under the command and control of the Iraqi Government and the Iraqi military. That’s been our assessment all along. There needs to be that coordination mechanism. But we certainly recognize, and we’ve said so many times, the vital role that these groups, including the Peshmerga, play and have played thus far and showed tremendous courage in liberating parts of Iraq that have been under the control of ISIL.
So I think what we’re talking about is better coordination, better communication between the Kurdish forces and the Iraqi Government, military.