Christian fighters in Iraq hoping for American support

Christian armed groups in Iraq are hoping for support from the United States after the U.S. House of Representatives called for assistance to be given directly to the Middle Eastern country's local forces.

Iraqi security forces stand with an Islamic State flag which they pulled down in the town of Hit in Anbar province, April 2, 2016. | REUTERS/STRINGER

According to the Associated Press, the draft for the 2017 U.S. defense bill submitted by the House says that direct assistance may be given to "local security forces, including ethnic and religious minority groups, with a national security mission." The words are said to be vague, which gives the government room in deciding whom to give support to and how. The bill, however, still needs to be approved by the U.S. Senate and then signed by the president.

Nonetheless, Christian groups such as the Nineveh Plain Protection Units are hoping that this would come to pass. The group's deputy commander, Col. Jawat Habib Abboush, said that assistance from the U.S. "will give equality to all the ethnic groups here."

"This is our country, we had a civilization here for a thousand years and we are still citizens of this country," he said. "We cannot be marginalized."

The report says the NPU has had training from private American military trainers. Abboush said that they are a threat only to the Islamic State, otherwise known as ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh, and their group was formed in order to protect the citizens of the community. Of their members, somewhere around 300 bought their own weapons. The Iraqi government has paid the their wages since spring, and gave weapons to around 100 of its fighters.

Abboush claimed that U.S. military personnel are currently training his men, although this could not be confirmed by a spokesman for the anti-IS coalition. The spokesperson, however, said that they are considering training Dwekh Nawsha, another Christian group.

Yet another Christian group in the area, the Nineveh Plains Forces, is considered to be a rival to the NPU. They, too, received training from private American military trainers, but they are supported by the Kurdish armed forces, the peshmerga.

The central government and the Kurdish regional government are reportedly at odds, both wanting to gain influence over the province of Nineveh, which, in turn, causes more squabbles between the Christian armed fighters. NPU claims to be an official security force, while the NPF says it's a part of the Kurdish defense forces.

The U.S. is currently giving support to the Iraqi defense forces as well as the Kurdish peshmerga, but not to the numerous other militia forces established by sectarian and ethnic groups.