Unpaid Wages Fueling Desertions Among Kurdish Peshmerga

Low Oil Prices Busting Kurdish Economy, Driving Down Morale

The interminable fighting against ISIS on an ever-expanding front line is already a tough position for the Kurdish Peshmerga forces to be in. The Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) paramilitary forces are facing a much bigger problem lately, however, lack of pay.

The KRG’s budget was built almost entirely around revenue from oil exports, and as the price of oil drops precipitously, their economy is crumbling, and one of the biggest things the KRG was able to cut was Peshmerga salaries.

Several reported being unpaid for four months, and being put on “half wages” after that. Many are rotating in and out of “active” duty over lack of pay, being forced to take a second job to make ends meet, a struggle when they get shifted around in the war.

KRG Deputy PM Qubad Talabani warned that morale is crumbling in the Peshmergha, and many are deserting. Though the exact number of desertions aren’t being made public, Talabani warned it’s sizable, and getting worse. With the Peshmerga being asked to lead the fight against ISIS across northern Iraq, those thinning ranks could quickly cost them some territory.

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Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.