Peshmerga (Central Kurdish: پێشمەرگە‎, translit. Pêşmerge, IPA: [peːʃmɛɾˈɡɛ]) are the military forces of the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan. The overall formal head of the peshmerga is the President of Iraqi Kurdistan. The peshmerga force itself is largely divided and controlled separately by the Democratic Party of Kurdistan and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, although both pledge allegiance to the Kurdistan Regional Government. Efforts are under way to gather the entire force under the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs.[3] Peshmerga forces are responsible for defending the land, people and institutions of Iraqi Kurdistan.[4]


Because the Iraqi Army is forbidden by law from entering Iraqi Kurdistan,[5][6] the peshmerga, along with other Kurdish security subsidiaries, are responsible for the security of the Kurdish Region.[7][8][9] These subsidiaries include Asayish (official intelligence agency), Parastin u Zanyarî and (Dzha Terror) (assisting intelligence agency) and the Zeravani (military police).

Flag of Kurdistan.svg

The flag of Kurdistan which Peshmerga uses as their emblem, uniform patch, and battle flag alongside the Iraqi flag.
Active Early 1920s–present
Allegiance Iraqi Kurdistan
Branch Army
Size 150,000[1]–200,000[2]
Headquarters Erbil هةولير(Hewlêr)
March Ey Reqîb
Commander-in-Chief Masoud Barzani
Minister of Peshmerga Affairs Mustafa Qadir Mustafa Aziz
Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Jabar Yawar

In 2003, during the Iraq War, peshmerga were said to have played a key role in the mission to capture Saddam Hussein.[10][11] In 2004, they captured key al Qaeda figure Hassan Ghul, who revealed the identity of Osama Bin Laden‘s messenger, which eventually led to Operation Neptune Spear and the death of Osama Bin Laden.[12][13]


Following a large-scale Islamic State offensive against Iraqi Kurdistan in August 2014, peshmerga and Kurdish forces from neighboring countries have been waging war against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in both Iraq and Syria.


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