Germany has stepped up its military aid to Kurdish forces in northern Iraq as part of an international effort to combat the growing threat to regional peace and stability posed by the Islamic State.  The Bundeswehr recently provided another tranche of arms and equipment to the Kurdish Regional Government’s armed forces (Peshmerga) and the German-led training mission has completed its first battalion-level training courses aimed at improving the Peshmerga’s tactical effectiveness.  Germany’s train and equip efforts are intended to increase the Peshmerga’s ability to take on Islamic State forces in urban areas and open terrain in addition to the mountainous conditions they have been used to in their home region.     

From late April through May 2015, the Bundeswehr sent at least five planeloads of arms, equipment, and supplies to the Kurdish Peshmerga in northern Iraq.  All of the shipments listed below were flown from Germany’s Leipzig-Halle airfield by An-124 heavy transport aircraft operated by Russia’s Volga Dnepr and Ukraine’s Antonov under the Strategic Airlift Interim Solution (SALIS) program, which was extended for a further two years by the NATO Support Agency last December.[1]  The flights made interim stops in Baghdad to allow inspection of the cargo by Iraqi national authorities before continuing on to Irbil.

  • 25 April: 70 tons of German arms and equipment, including 20 MILAN anti-tank guided missile launchers, 150 gripstocks for Panzerfaust 3 light anti-tank weapons, 2 Dingo mine resistant vehicles, and 3 military ambulance vehicles, as well as medical supplies, training weapons, spare parts, and 1,000 gas masks.[2]
  • 2 May: 6 million rounds of ammunition for G36 and G3 assault rifles, 1 Dingo mine resistant vehicle, 2 military ambulance vehicles, and medical equipment and supplies.[3]
  • 12 May: About 61 tons of ammunition, consisting of 300 MILAN anti-tank guided missiles, 1,392 rounds for Panzerfaust 3 light anti-tank weapons, 120,000 tracer rounds for G3 assault rifles, and 5,000 hand grenades.[4]
  • 13 May: 77 tons of ammunition, consisting of 1,812,000 rounds for G36 assault rifles, 580,000 rounds for G3 assault rifles, 508,800 rounds for MG3 machineguns, 908 rounds for Panzerfaust 3, and 60 illumination rounds for Carl Gustav recoilless rifles.[5]
  • 28 May: 56 tons of military equipment and supplies, including 2,000 helmets, 3,000 gas masks and filters, 2,000 pairs of combat shoes, 500 binoculars, and 30 pieces of mine detection equipment, plus equipment and supplies for the German training contingent in Irbil.[6]

These deliveries are part of the supplemental deliveries of German arms and equipment for the Kurdish Peshmerga, following up on the first three tranches delivered from September to November last year.  According to the German Ministry of Defense, Germany had transferred a total of about 1,800 tons of arms, ammunition, equipment, and supplies to the Kurdish Peshmerga by the end of May 2015. [7]

Training Peshmerga Troops for the Fight Against Islamic State

The Bundeswehr’s training contingent in northern Iraq has worked since February in the Kurdistan Training Coordination Center (KTCC) along with international partners from Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, and the United Kingdom to raise the tactical combat skills of Peshmerga units and make them more effective in the fight against the Islamic State (IS).   According to Colonel Jochen Schneider, who served as KTCC commander until 4 June, the training program was tailored in response to Peshmerga requests.  Schneider said the KTCC doesn’t try to train troops “like we do in NATO” but instead seeks to build on the Peshmerga’s own capabilities and improve their way of fighting.[8]

German trainers describe the Peshmerga troops as highly motivated and very practically oriented.  They are experienced fighters, having come directly from the front, but their experience is that of militia fighting in the mountainous terrain of their home region.  They need instruction in the skills needed to conduct operations in built-up urban areas or larger scale offensive operations in open terrain.  They also need technology and training in ways to defeat the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) employed by Islamic State fighters.[9]  Bundeswehr trainers also have instructed Peshmerga troops on the use of illumination rounds and night vision devices to help overcome their deficiencies in night-combat operations.[10]

The KTCC’s four-week training course makes use of an abandoned residential construction zone on the outskirts of Irbil that offers hundreds of unfinished houses and other buildings, as well as streets littered with construction debris.[11]  KTCC specialists have installed exercise-IEDs of the same type used by the Islamic State.[12]  A YouTube video posted by the Bundeswehr in early June showed teams of Peshmerga troops exercising clear and hold operations, including house entries and room-by-room searches, under close supervision by Bundeswehr trainers.[13]

The KTCC’s initial training efforts focused on basic training at the platoon level, providing instruction in shooting, urban warfare skills, identifying IEDs, and battlefield first-aid.  In late March, the KTCC introduced a course to provide instruction in tactics, techniques, and procedures simultaneously at the platoon, company, and battalion level.[14] A major goal is to improve the leadership skills of Peshmerga officers and NCOs, in particular their ability to analyze a tactical situation and draw the proper conclusions—when to attack the enemy, where, and with which weapons.[15]

Kurdish leaders and military commanders have praised the Bundeswehr’s train and equip effort for the Peshmerga and pushed for its expansion.  Minister of Peshmerga Affairs Mustafa Sayid Qadir said the Peshmerga is particularly interested in obtaining more MILAN antitank guided missile systems, which can effectively engage the car and truck-bombs employed by IS fighters at longer ranges.  Kurdish officials presented a formal request for these and other arms and equipment to German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen earlier this year.[16]

Stephan Wallace is a defense and security policy analyst following political, military, and economic developments in Europe.  He can be contacted by email at The views expressed are those of the author alone. They do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Institute for Contemporary German Studies (AICGS).

[1] Roland Herold, “Antonovs fliegen weiter ab Leipzig/Halle-Nato verlängert Vertrag trotz Ukraine-Krise,” Leipziger Volkszeitung, 24 Feb 2015.

[2] German Ministry of Defense / PAO KTCC, Erneute Materiallieferung erreicht Erbil, 27 April 2015.

[3] German Ministry of Defense / PIZ EinsFüKdoBw, Bildergalerie: 2,5 Millionen Patronen und weitere Fahrzeuge für Peschmerga, 5 May 2015.

[4] German Ministry of Defense / PIZ EinsFüKdoBw, Erneute Lieferungen: Munition für die Peschmerga, 13 May 2015.

[5] Ibid.

[6] German Ministry of Defense / PIZ EinsFüKdoBw, Materiallieferung in den Irak, 29 May 2015.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Campbell MacDiarmid, “Coalition rolls out battalion-level Peshmerga training,” Rudaw, 24 March 2015.

[9] Jan Kuhlman, “Peshmerga-training durch Bundeswehr – “Kurden rotzen das Magazin leer,” T-Online/DPA, 16 April 2015.

[10] Axel Lier, “Bundeswehr will Feldlager in Kurdistan einrichten,” Berliner Zeitung, 30 January 2015.

[11] Jan Kuhlman, “Peshmerga-training durch Bundeswehr – “Kurden rotzen das Magazin leer,” T-Online/DPA, 16 April 2015.

[12] German Defense Ministry, PAO KTCC, Nordirak:  Peschmerga Bataillon beweist Stärke, 27 May 2015.

[13] German Ministry of Defense / YouTube Bundeswehr (15E16302), Video:  Gegner IS – Peschmerga üben Häuserkampf, 3 June 2015.

[14] Campbell MacDiarmid, “Coalition rolls out battalion-level Peshmerga training,” Rudaw, 24 March 2015.

[15] Jan Kuhlman, “Peshmerga-training durch Bundeswehr – “Kurden rotzen das Magazin leer,” T-Online/DPA, 16 April 2015.

[16]Bundeswehr-Training für Kurden – Mehr Waffen, Mehr Raketen,” TAZ/DPA, 16 April 2014 and “Mit den G36 könnten wir alle Peschmerga ausrüsten,” Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 23 April 2015.