This short report is based on a review of existing literature, Kurdish and international news reports, and 25 extended interviews in Iraqi Kurdistan with key informants from government, Peshmerga, diplomatic, NGO and think tank backgrounds between 9 and 21 September 2017. The author thanks all interviewees for their frankness and helpful insights.

The report also owes a debt of gratitude to Bakhtyar Karim (independent consultant) for his invaluable research assistance, to Kawa Hassan (EastWest Institute) and Al-Hamzeh Al-Shadeedi (Clingendael) for a helpful peer review, and to Erwin van Veen (also Clingendael) for his guidance.

This report is part of Clingendael’s Levant research programme that focuses its analysis on hybrid security organisations in Syria and Iraq. A more extensive description of this research programme, as well as its outputs to date, is available at: Clingendael Levant Research Programme