Christian anti-Islamic State forces in Iraq are set to benefit from a defence spending bill headed for authorisation by the US Congress and Senate.
A counter-IS provision in a previous bill had allocated money for local security forces in the Nineveh Plain. However, the current bill specifically refers to Christians as a group that should be supported. A report says: "The committee believes that the United States should support appropriately vetted, effective indigenous groups such as Iraqi Christian militias, with a national security mission."
Executive director of A Demand for Action, Steve Oshana, told Christian Today the move was a "huge step forward". "This is significant because Christian forces in Iraq and Syria have spent the past 18 months building capacity, and in Syria one group has already received support from the US," he said.
"It's significant because it shows a greater US commitment to supporting Christians and more importantly acknowledging their legitimacy as fighting forces in Iraq and Syria."
The move comes in the wake of a determination by US lawmakers that Islamic State's treatment of Christians and other minorities is genocide. The House of Representatives voted by 393 to zero that "the atrocities perpetrated by ISIL against Christians, Yezidis, and other religious and ethnic minorities in Iraq and Syria constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide".
The increasing efficiency of Christian forces in Iraq contrasts with comments by Canon Andrew White, the Vicar of Baghdad, who said in February last year that Christians there were "universally hopeless at fighting". Canon White said then: "Christians are no good at being soldiers. If going to join the new militia makes them feel good, great. But it will achieve absolutely nothing."
However, since then Islamic State has suffered a series of reverses, losing territory and facing increasing discontentment in areas it still controls. Tighter border controls are helping check the flow of recruits from Turkey and ISIS is under financial pressure as its revenue from oil dries up.