The United States has started arming Kurdish Peshmerga forces with two army brigades' worth of equipment as part of preparations for a looming U.S.-led coalition offensive to regain Mosul from the Islamic State (ISIS) terror group, according to news reports.
The U.S. government has sent armoured personnel carriers, mortars and anti-tank weapons to the Kurds, UPI reports.
The U.S. also donated personal military equipment including helmets, body armour vests, anti-chemical protection equipment, medical equipment and M16 rifles, the report says.
"This is the first time for our soldiers here and if you look around today, you can see they have all the same equipment,'' said Col. Bernd Prill, the commander of the Kurdistan Training Coordinated Centre (KTCC), Kurdistan local news Ara reports.
"This will make it easier for us and for them. Previously our trainers had to be prepared for five different weapons, now only for one,'' he added.
Last week, he said the Kurds begun the first Modern Brigade Court—a 10-week programme during which the Peshmergas are trained on basic infantry skills using U.S. weapons.
Brig. Gen. John E. Novalis II, who is overseeing coalition training of Iraqi security forces, told Stars and Stripes that the U.S. government have decided to give the Kurds ''two U.S. Army brigades-worth of equipment—heavier stuff'' to aid in the ongoing offensive on Mosul, the de-facto capital of the ISIS in northern Iraq.
The Kurdistan Peshmerga is one of the few effective forces on the ground to battle with the ISIS.
In an earlier press conference, U.S. Army Col. Steve Warren told reporters that the U.S. weapons delivered to the Kurds would be coursed through the Iraqi government, and that it is up to the central government "to decide where every piece of equipment goes."
In addition to the heavy weapons for the Kurds, the U.S. military also deployed tactical aircraft capable of attacking ISIS's ability to communicate closer to the front lines of the battle against the terrorist group.
CNN reports that the U.S. European command sent a squadron of Marine Corps EA-6B Prowler aircraft to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey to support operations against ISIS. The Prowler can protect allied forces on the ground and strike aircraft by jamming any radar and communication devices ISIS has, it added.
First used in 1972 during the Vietnam War, the aircraft has been deployed to assist peacekeeping missions around the world as well as to enforce "no-fly" zones like the one over the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. It has also been used in both Iraq and Syria since military action against ISIS began in 2014.
Last week, the U.S. Central Command also reportedly sent B-52 bombers into the ISIS fight for the first time.