Peshmerga soldiers in Iraqi Kurdistan, 2016.
|Allegiance||Kurdistan Regional Government (disputed, see Structure)|
|Size||247,000(disputed, see Structure)|
|March||Ey Reqîb [ citation needed ]|
|Minister of Peshmerga Affairs||Mustafa Sayid Qadir|
Peshmerga (Sorani Kurdish : پێشمەرگە, translit. Pêşmerge, lit. 'Before death', or 'Those who face death' IPA: [peːʃmɛɾˈɡɛ] ) are the military forces of the federal region of Iraqi Kurdistan. Because the Iraqi Army is forbidden by Iraqi law to enter Iraqi Kurdistan, the Peshmerga, along with their security subsidiaries, are responsible for the security of the regions in Iraqi Kurdistan. These subsidiaries include Asayish (intelligence agency), Parastin u Zanyarî (assisting intelligence agency) and the Zeravani (military police). It has been argued [ by whom? ] that peshmerge itself predates Iraq, starting out as a strictly tribal pseudo-military border guard under the Ottomans and Safavids to a well-trained, disciplined guerrilla force in the 19th century.
Literal translation, direct translation, or word-for-word translation is the rendering of text from one language to another one word at a time with or without conveying the sense of the original whole.
Iraqi Kurdistan, officially called the Kurdistan Region of Iraq by the Iraqi constitution, is an autonomous region located in northern Iraq. It is also referred to as Southern Kurdistan, as Kurds generally consider it to be one of the four parts of Greater Kurdistan, which also includes parts of southeastern Turkey, northern Syria, and northwestern Iran.
The Iraqi Army, officially the Iraqi Ground Forces, is the ground force component of the Iraqi Armed Forces, having been active in various incarnations throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. It was known as the Royal Iraqi Army up until the coup of July 1958.
Formally the peshmerga are under the command of the Kurdistan Regional Government's Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs. In reality the peshmerga force itself is largely divided and controlled separately by the two regional political parties: Democratic Party of Kurdistan and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. Unifying and integrating the peshmerga has been on the public agenda since 1992 but the forces remain divided due to factionalism which has proved to be a major stumblingblock.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is the official ruling body of the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region.
The Kurdistan Democratic Party, usually abbreviated as KDP or PDK, is one of the main Kurdish parties in Iraqi Kurdistan. It was founded in 1946 in Mahabad in Iranian Kurdistan. The party claims it exists to combine "democratic values and social justice to form a system whereby everyone in Kurdistan can live on an equal basis with great emphasis given to rights of individuals and freedom of expression."
The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan is a Kurdish political party in Iraqi Kurdistan. The PUK describes its goals as self-determination, human rights, and democracy and peace for the Kurdish people of Kurdistan and Iraq. The current Secretary General is Kosrat Rasul Ali. Fuad Masum, co-founder of the PUK, was the President of Iraq from 2014 to 2018. It was founded on 22 May 1975 in Iraqi Kurdistan by Adel Murad, Nawshirwan Mustafa, Ali Askari, Fuad Masum, Jalal Talabani and Abdul Razaq Feyli.
In 2003, during the Iraq War, peshmerga were said to have played a key role in the mission to capture Saddam Hussein.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.
The Iraq War was a protracted armed conflict that began in 2003 with the invasion of Iraq by a United States-led coalition that overthrew the government of Saddam Hussein. The conflict continued for much of the next decade as an insurgency emerged to oppose the occupying forces and the post-invasion Iraqi government. An estimated 151,000 to 600,000 or more Iraqis were killed in the first three to four years of conflict. The U.S. became re-involved in 2014 at the head of a new coalition; the insurgency and many dimensions of the civil armed conflict continue. The invasion occurred as part of a declared war against international terrorism and its sponsors under the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush following the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was President of Iraq from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003. A leading member of the revolutionary Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party, and later, the Baghdad-based Ba'ath Party and its regional organization the Iraqi Ba'ath Party—which espoused Ba'athism, a mix of Arab nationalism and socialism—Saddam played a key role in the 1968 coup that brought the party to power in Iraq.
Hassan Ghul, born Mustafa Hajji Muhammad Khan, was a Pakistani or Saudi Arabian member of al-Qaeda who revealed the kunya of Osama Bin Laden's messenger, which eventually led to Operation Neptune Spear and the death of Osama Bin Laden.
The term "peshmerga" was only coined in the mid-20th century. Some[ who? ] suggest it was coined by the Kurdish writer Ibrahim Ahmad. Others however[ who? ], such as Valentine states it was first used by Qazi Muhammad in the short lived Mahabad republic 1946–47. As stated above it is a combination of two Kurdish words; pesh meaning to confront or face, and the word Merg which means death. The literal word is defined as "one who faces death". The term is primarily used by Sorani speaking Kurds to refer to Kurdish forces in Iraq while Kurmanji speaking Kurds use the term "gerîla" for armed Kurdish forces in Turkey, Iran and Syria. The word is mutually intelligible to speakers of Farsi.
Ibrahim Ahmad was a Kurdish writer, novelist and translator.
Central Kurdish, also called Sorani is a Kurdish language spoken in Iraq, mainly in Iraqi Kurdistan, as well as the Kurdistan Province, Kermanshah Province, and West Azerbaijan Province of western Iran. Central Kurdish is one of the two official languages of Iraq, along with Arabic, and is in political documents simply referred to as "Kurdish".
Northern Kurdish, also called Kurmanji, is a Kurdish language spoken in southeast Turkey, northwest and northeast Iran, northern Iraq and northern Syria. It is the most widespread language of the Kurdish languages. While Kurdish is generally categorized as one of the Northwestern Iranian languages along with Baluchi, it also shares many traits with Southwestern Iranian languages like Persian, apparently due to longstanding and intense historical contacts, and some authorities have gone so far as to classify Kurmanji as a Southwestern or "southern" Iranian language.
The Kurdish warrior tradition of rebellion has existed for thousands of years along with aspirations for independence, and early Kurdish warriors fought against the various Persian empires, the Ottoman Empire and the British Empire.
The Ottoman Empire, also historically known in Western Europe as the Turkish Empire or simply Turkey, was a state that controlled much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa between the 14th and early 20th centuries. It was founded at the end of the 13th century in northwestern Anatolia in the town of Söğüt by the Oghuz Turkish tribal leader Osman I. After 1354, the Ottomans crossed into Europe, and with the conquest of the Balkans, the Ottoman beylik was transformed into a transcontinental empire. The Ottomans ended the Byzantine Empire with the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by Mehmed the Conqueror.
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. It originated with the overseas possessions and trading posts established by England between the late 16th and early 18th centuries. At its height, it was the largest empire in history and, for over a century, was the foremost global power. By 1913, the British Empire held sway over 412 million people, 23% of the world population at the time, and by 1920, it covered 35,500,000 km2 (13,700,000 sq mi), 24% of the Earth's total land area. As a result, its political, legal, linguistic and cultural legacy is widespread. At the peak of its power, the phrase "the empire on which the sun never sets" was often used to describe the British Empire, because its expanse around the globe meant that the sun was always shining on at least one of its territories.
Historically the peshmerga existed only as guerilla organizations, but under the self-declared Republic of Mahabad (1946–1947), the peshmerga led by Mustafa Barzani became the official army of the republic.After the fall of the republic and the execution of head of state Qazi Muhammad, peshmerga forces reemerged as guerilla organizations that would go on to fight the Iranian and Iraqi governments for the remainder of the century.
The Republic of Mahabad was a short-lived Kurdish self-governing state in present-day Iran, from 22 January to 15 December 1946. The Republic of Mahabad arose alongside the Azerbaijan People's Government, a similarly short-lived state.
Mustafa Barzani also known as Mullah Mustafa, was a Kurdish nationalist leader, and one of the most prominent political figures in modern Kurdish politics. In 1946, he was chosen as the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) to lead the Kurdish revolution against Iraqi regimes, although at times he also allied himself to the Iranian government. Barzani was the primary political and military leader of the Kurdish revolution until his death in March 1979. He led campaigns of armed struggle against both the Iraqi and Iranian governments.
Qazi Muhammad was an Iranian Kurdish leader who founded the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan and headed the short-lived Republic of Mahabad. He was hanged by the Pahlavi dynasty for treason.
In Iraq, most of these peshmerga were led by Mustafa Barzani of the Kurdistan Democratic Party.In 1975 the peshmerga were defeated in the Second Iraqi–Kurdish War. Jalal Talabani, a leading member of the KDP, left the same year to revitalize the resistance and founded the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. This event created the baseline for the political discontent between the KDP and PUK that to this day divides peshmerga forces and much of Kurdish society in Iraqi Kurdistan.
After Mustafa Barzani's death in 1979, his son Masoud Barzani took his position.As tension increased between KDP and PUK, most peshmerga fought to keep a region under their own party's control, while also fighting off Iraqi Army incursions. Following the First Persian Gulf War, Iraqi Kurdistan saw the Kurdish Civil War between the two major parties, the KDP and the PUK, and peshmerga forces were used to fight each other. The civil war officially ended in September 1998, when Barzani and Talabani signed the Washington Agreement establishing a formal peace treaty. In the agreement, the parties agreed to share revenue and power, deny the use of northern Iraq to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), and not allow Iraqi troops into the Kurdish regions. By then, around 5,000 had been killed on both sides, and many more had been evicted for being on the wrong side. In the years after, tension remained high, but both parties moved towards each other and in 2003 they both took part in the overthrowing of the Baathist regime as part of the Iraq War. They remained on good terms, forming a government of Iraqi Kurdistan. Unlike other militia forces, the peshmerga were never prohibited by Iraqi law.
The peshmerga are mostly divided among forces loyal to the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and those loyal to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK),while other, minor Kurdish parties such as the Kurdistan Socialist Democratic Party also have their own small peshmarga units. The KDP and PUK do not disclose information about the composition of their forces with government or media. Thus there is no reliable number of how many Peshmerga fighters exist. Media outlets have speculated that there are between 150,000 and 200,000 peshmerga, but this number is highly disputed. Peshmerga have divided Iraqi Kurdistan into a KDP-governed "yellow" zone covering Dohuk Governorate and Erbil Governorate and a PUK-governed "green" zone covering Sulaymaniyah Governorate and Halabja Governorate. Each zone has its own branch of peshmerge with their own governing institutions and parallel peshmerga units that do not coordinate with the other branch .
As a result of the split nature of the peshmerga force, there is no central command center in charge of the entire force, and peshmerga units instead follow separate military hierarchies depending on political allegiance.Multiple unification and depoliticizing efforts of the peshmerge have been made since 1992. But so far all deadlines have been missed, reforms have been watered down and most of the peshmerga is still under the influence of the KDP and the PUK, who also maintain their separate peshmerga forces. Following the events of the Iraqi Civil War in 2014 the United States and several European nations pressured the PUK and KDP to set up mixed brigades of peshmerga, as a condition for aid and funding. The PUK and KDP united 12 to 14 brigades under the Regional Guard Brigades which were then placed under the command of the Ministry of Peshmerga Affair. However officers continue to report to and take orders from their party leaders who also control the deployment of forces loyal to them and appoint front-line and sector commanders
Both the KDP and the PUK rely heavily on irregulars in times of conflict to increase their ranks.However both maintain several professional military brigades. The following units have been identified within the peshmerga force:
|Force||Estimated size||Commander||Party affiliation|
|Regional Guard Brigades||40,000–43,000||Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs||Supposedly apolitical|
|Hezekani Kosrat Rasul||2,000–3,000||Kosrat Rasul Ali||PUK|
|Anti-terror force||unknown||Lahur Shekh Jangi||PUK|
|Presidential peshmerga brigades||unknown||Hero Ibrahim Ahmed||PUK|
|70 Unit||60,000||Sheikh Jaafar Sheikh Mustafa||PUK. Supposedly becoming incorporated into MPA|
|PUK Asayish (security) force||unknown||unknown||PUK|
|Nechirvan Barzani's bridage||unknown||Nechirvan Barzani||KDP|
|80 Unit||70,000-90,000||Najat Ali Salih||KDP. Supposedly becoming incorporated into MPA|
|KDP Asayish (security) force||unknown||unknown||KDP|
Due to limited funding and the vast size of the peshmerga forces, the KRG has long planned to downsize its forces from large numbers of low-quality forces to a smaller but much more effective and well-trained force.Consequently, in 2009, the KRG and Baghdad engaged in discussions about incorporating parts of the peshmerga forces into the Iraqi Army, in what would be the 15th and 16th Iraqi Army divisions. However, after increasing tension between Erbil and Baghdad regarding the disputed areas, the transfer was largely put on hold. Some peshmerga were already transferred but reportedly deserted again, and there are allegations that former peshmerga forces remain loyal to the KRG rather than their Iraqi chain of command,regardless thousands of 80 Unit / KDP and 70 Unit / PUK are based in Baghdad and they have good cooperation with other Iraqi forces in Baghdad.
The peshmerga forces are secular with a Muslim majority and Assyrian Christian and Yezidi units.
Peshmerga forces largely rely on old arms captured from battles. The peshmerga captured stockpiles of weapons during the 1991 Iraqi uprisings.Several stockpiles of weapons were captured from the old Iraqi Army during the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, in which peshmerga forces were active. Following the retreat of the new Iraqi Army during the June 2014 ISIS offensive, peshmerga forces reportedly again managed to get hold of weapons left behind by the Army. Since August 2014, peshmerga forces have also captured weapons from ISIS. In 2015, for the first time, peshmerga soldiers received urban warfare and military intelligence training from foreign trainers, the Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve.
The peshmerga arsenal is limited and confined by restrictions because the Kurdish Region has to purchase arms through the Iraqi government. Due to disputes between the KRG and the Iraqi government, arm flows from Baghdad to Iraqi Kurdistan has been almost nonexistent, as Baghdad fears Kurdish aspirations for independence.After the ISIS offensive of August 2014, multiple governments armed the peshmerga with some light equipment, such as light arms, night goggles and ammunition. However, Kurdish officials and peshmerga stressed that they were not receiving enough. They also stress that Baghdad was blocking all arms from reaching the KRG, emphasizing the need for weapons to be sent directly to the KRG and not through Baghdad. Despite this the United States has mainted that the government of Iraq is responsible for the security of Iraqi Kurdistan and that Baghdad must approve all military aid.
The peshmerga lack a proper medical corps and communication units.This became apparent during the ISIS offensive in 2014 where the peshmerga found itself lacking ambulances and frontline field hospitals, forcing wounded fighters to walk back to safety. There is also a lack of communication tools as peshmerga commanders are forced to use civilian cellphones to communicate with each other. Under guidance of the US-led coalition the peshmerga has started to standardize its weapons systems, replacing Soviet-era weapons with NATO firearms.
Women have played a significant role in the peshmerga since its foundation. The Kurdish Zand tribe was known for allowing women in military roles.During the Iraqi–Kurdish conflict the majority of women served within the peshmerga in supporting roles such as building camps, taking care of the wounded and carrying munitions and messages. Several women brigades served on the front lines. The most famous peshmerga was Margaret George Shello who managed to secure a leading position. The PUK started recruiting women during the Kurdish Civil War. Women were given a 45-day basic training that included parade drills and basic marksmanship with various rifles, mortars, and RPGs. In the months leading up to the US 2003 invasion of Iraq, the United States launched Operation Viking Hammer which dealt a huge blow to Islamic terrorist groups in Iraqi Kurdistan and uncovered a chemical weapons facility. The PUK later confirmed that women Kurdish fighters had participated in the operation.
The modern peshmerga is almost entirely made up of men while having at least 600 women in their ranks.In the KDP, these women peshmerga have so far been refused access to the frontline and are mostly used in logistics and management positions, but women PUK peshmerga are deployed in the front lines and are actively engaged in combat.
The peshmerga forces are plagued by frequent allegations of corruption, partisanship, nepotism, and fraud.A common result of corruption in the peshmerga are "ghost employees" which are employees on paper who either do not exist or do not show up for work but receive a salary. Those setting up such a scam split the salary of these employees.
In addition the KDP and PUK have used the peshmerga to exert, or attempt to exert, a monopoly on the use of force within their zones.In 2011 KDP peshmerga fired on anti-government protesters in Sulaymaniyah on and the PUK later used its own security forces to break up these protests. Leading to criticism from all of the opposition parties in the parliament. In 2014 the KDP used its peshmerga to stop ministers from the Gorran Movement to enter Erbil and attend parliament.
Outside of Iraqi Kurdistan the peshmerga has been accused of using force to exert control of local Arab, Yazidi and Assyrian communities. Particularly after taking control of areas officially outside of Iraqi Kurdistan during the Iraqi Civil War.
Masoud Barzani is a Kurdish politician who had been President of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region from 2005 to 2017. However, Barzani’s post sparked controversy, as his mandate expired 19 August 2015. He is also leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) since 1979.
The Iraqi Kurdish Civil War was a military conflict that took place between rival Kurdish factions in Iraqi Kurdistan during the mid-1990s, most notably between the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party. Over the course of the conflict, Kurdish factions from Iran and Turkey, as well as Iranian, Iraqi and Turkish forces were drawn into the fighting, with additional involvement from the American forces. Between 3,000 and 5,000 fighters and civilians were killed. According to some estimates however, upwards of 8,000 civilians alone could have been killed throughout the more than three years of warfare.
Kosrat Rasul Ali, also known as Kosret Rasoul Ali, is an Iraqi Kurdish politician, First Deputy for the Secretary General of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), veteran Peshmerga military leader, Second Prime Minister of KRG and Vice President of the Kurdistan Region.
Nawshirwan Mustafa was an Iraqi Kurdish politician who served as the General Coordinator of the Movement for Change and the leader of the official opposition in the Kurdistan Region from 1 April 2009 to his death on 19 May 2017.
The Kurdish rebellion of 1983 occurred during the Iran–Iraq War as PUK and KDP Kurdish militias of northern Iraq rebelled against Saddam Hussein, in an attempt to form their own autonomous country. With Iraqi occupation of the Iranian front, Kurdish Peshmerga combining the forces of KDP and PUK succeeded in retaining control of some enclaves with Iranian logistic and sometimes military support. The initial rebellion resulted in stalemate by 1985.
Ali Askari (1936–1978) was a Kurdish politician. He was a prominent leader in Iraqi Kurdistan and his political party was the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.
The First Iraqi–Kurdish War also known as Aylul revolts was a major event of the Iraqi–Kurdish conflict, lasting from 1961 until 1970. The struggle was led by Mustafa Barzani, in an attempt to establish an autonomous Kurdish administration in northern Iraq. Throughout the 1960s, the uprising escalated into a long war, which failed to resolve despite internal power changes in Iraq. During the war, 80% of the Iraqi army was engaged in combat with the Kurds. The war ended with a Kurdish Victory in 1970, resulting in between 75,000 to 105,000 casualties. A series of Iraqi–Kurdish negotiations followed the war in an attempt to resolve the conflict. The negotiations led to the Iraqi–Kurdish Autonomy Agreement of 1970.
The Iraqi–Kurdish conflict consists of a series of wars and rebellions by the Kurds against the central authority of Iraq during the 20th century, which began shortly after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I and lasting until the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Some put the marking point of the conflict beginning to the attempt by Mahmud Barzanji to establish an independent Kingdom of Kurdistan, while others relate to the conflict as only the post-1961 insurrection by the Barzanis. The conflict lasted until the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, though tensions between the Kurdish autonomy and the central Iraqi government have continued.
The PUK insurgency was a low-level 1975–79 rebellion of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) against Baathist Iraq, following the defeat of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in the Second Iraqi–Kurdish War, which forced that organization to declare a ceasefire and move into exile in Iran. Due to lack of foreign support, the PUK guerrillas were only able to operate in the highest regions of south Kurdistan's mountains. During the militancy period the PUK plunged into a political crisis with the KDP, which led the latter to engage in heavy intra-Kurdish warfare, climaxing in 1977. The PUK insurgency later transformed into alliance with Iranian forces during the Iran–Iraq War and were backed by Iran in the Kurdish Rebellion of 1983.
An independence referendum for Iraqi Kurdistan was held on 25 September 2017, with preliminary results showing approximately 93.25 percent of votes cast in favour of independence. Despite reporting that the independence referendum would be non-binding, the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) characterised it as binding, although they claimed that an affirmative result would trigger the start of state building and negotiations with Iraq rather than an immediate declaration of independence of Kurdistan. The referendum's legality was rejected by the federal government of Iraq.
The Peshmerga have historically been Kurdish guerrilla forces combating the ruling power in the region of what is now Iraqi Kurdistan. Under Mahmud Barzanji, the Peshmerga fought against the occupying British after World War I. They also spearheaded revolts against Iraq in 1931–1932 and against Iran in 1946–1947. Under the leadership of Mustafa Barzani, Peshmerga forces fought the Iraqi government in the First and Second Iraqi–Kurdish Wars of the 1960s and 1970s, and supported the Iranian side in the Iran–Iraq War of the 1980s. The Peshmerga became divided between forces loyal to the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and those loyal to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), a split that led to the Iraqi–Kurdish Civil War of 1995–1998. After the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Peshmerga became the official military forces of autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, whose government has attempted to unify the factions. The Peshmerga have played an important role in re-taking territory occupied by ISIS in 2014.
The November Sinjar offensive was a combination of operations of Kurdish Peshmerga, PKK, and People's Protection Units forces in November 2015, to recapture the city of Sinjar from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. It resulted in a decisive victory for the Kurdish forces, who expelled the ISIL militants from Sinjar and regained control of Highway 47, which until then had served as the major supply route between the ISIL strongholds of Raqqa and Mosul.
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Bafel Talabani, in Kurdish Bafel Tallebanî بافڵ تاڵەبانی is an Iraqi Kurdish politician and an emerging political figure and dealmaker in the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). He is the older son of PUK leader Jalal Talabani and was considered very close to his father.
The 2017 Iraqi–Kurdish conflict occurred in and around the Kurdish region of northern Iraq, and began on 15 October 2017, as a result of the Iraqi Kurdistan referendum in 2017 held on September 25. The diplomatic crisis between the Iraqi Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) escalated into all out conflict when the Peshmerga ignored repeated warnings by Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi to hand over Kirkuk peacefully to Iraqi forces. The Peshmerga stated they would not take commands from the central Government of Iraq but from the autonomous Kurdish region, this was tantamount to a declaration of rebellion against the state of Iraq. After a several weeks stand-off at the gates of Kirkuk, Iraqi troops were given orders to attack on 15 October. Despite having a significant disadvantage in terms of numbers, the attacking force was superior in equipment and discipline, and had effective tactics and coordination. The Peshmerga withdrew from the entire city of Kirkuk within a day and the Iraqi army pushed further north ejecting the Peshmerga from the entirety of Kirkuk province and neighbouring Sinjar, Diyala and the Nineva plains. The conflict marked a major set-back in Kurdish hopes for an independent nation as the KRG had lost 40 percent of land under its jurisdiction and their main source of revenue, the kirkuk oil fields. This meant the KRG was now reliant on an annual budget from the central government. The KRG made to sign a pledge to not seek independence again as a precondition to the end of the conflict.