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Kurds Aim to Win Iraq Territory Lost to Militants With U.S. Aid

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Aug. 21 (Bloomberg) -- Iraq’s Kurdish armed forces, known as peshmerga, are using heavy and light weapons received from the U.S. as they fight to seize back territory taken by Islamic State fighters this month, a Kurdish official said.

Bolstered by the deliveries and assisted by U.S. fighter jets and Iraqi national forces, the Kurdish fighters aim to “retake all the areas that were under our control,” peshmerga spokesman Halgourd Hikmat said in an interview today. “We haven’t set a date when we will start” a fresh offensive, along a 1,050-kilometer (650-mile) front, he said.

Peshmerga have already recorded some successes, ousting insurgents from Mosul Dam, the country’s largest, after losing the structure to militants who have rampaged through northern areas of OPEC’s No. 2 crude oil producer since June.

Although the U.S. has provided weapons to the Kurdish forces, “we still need more military equipment,” Hikmat said. “The Islamic State has capabilities. We want developed weapons to stop its advance.”

Iraq’s stock exchange gained for the third day today after U.S. President Barack Obama claimed that “important progress” has been made in the fight against the Islamic State. The ISX General Index advanced 1.4 percent to 101.64, the highest since June 19.

Some European powers have said they will provide Kurdish forces with military supplies. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government cleared the way yesterday for Germany to supply Iraqis, while Italian lawmakers approved arms for Kurdish forces hours after the German decision.

‘We Are Waiting’

Merkel said today during an election rally in the German city of Grimma that Germany won’t send any troops to Iraq.

Strengthened with weapons seized from Iraqi troops who fled their positions, the Islamic State, previously known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, has inspired terror with reports of beheadings and crucifixions. The Europeans were given additional impetus to provide weapons to the Kurds after militants released a video showing the beheading of a man they said was kidnapped U.S. journalist James Foley.

Germans “see now that global stability is at risk in Iraq, so they’re not only acting, but acting against a strong tradition of reluctance to engage in the region,” said Daniel Benjamin, a former State Department counterterrorism coordinator who’s now director of the Dickey Center for International Understanding at Dartmouth College.

Germany’s reversal of its post-World War II taboo on arms shipments to conflict areas reflects the revulsion felt across Europe at the brutal advance by Islamist fighters in Iraq. It also shows governments’ determination to halt the violence perpetrated by Islamic State from spilling into Europe’s heartland.

“We asked for help from all friends of democracy and humanity,” Hikmat said, adding that Kurdish forces hadn’t fought the militants today. “They announced their readiness to do so. We are waiting for the assistance from any country that said it will help.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Khalid Al-Ansary in Baghdad at kalansary@bloomberg.net; Glen Carey in Riyadh at gcarey8@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alaa Shahine at asalha@bloomberg.net Mark Williams, Michael Winfrey

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