The United States began directly providing weapons on Monday to Kurdish forces fighting Islamic militants in Iraq.
U.S. officials told NBC News that the CIA is giving the weapons directly to the Kurdish forces in the northern part of the country.
The Obama administration previously maintained that the United States would only sell arms to the Iraqi government in Baghdad, The Associated Press reported. But Kurdish forces, part of a minority ethnic group, recently had been losing ground to the Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS), which aims to spread its control throughout both Iraq and Syria.
President Barack Obama last week authorized the U.S. Armed Forces to conduct airstrikes in Iraq to protect American assets and religious minorities threatened by members of ISIS, which signaled the United States’ first military action in the country in three years. The strikes, which continued late Sunday, helped the Kurds regain territory, but ISIS presently controls a landmass larger than the entire state of Jordan.
Obama also requested the United States provides food and water to support thousands of civilians trapped by ISIS on a mountain in the northwestern part of Iraq. Republicans who criticized Obama previously for not taking action are now attacking him for his recent decisions.
Over the weekend, Iraqis missed a deadline to name a new prime minister, which prompted President Fouad Massoum to postpone voting. Current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was angered by Massoum’s decision. The president on Monday then nominated Hayder al-Abadi to take over al-Maliki’s role.
Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States stands “absolutely squarely” behind Massoum because he holds responsibility for upholding the constitution of Iraq.
“What we urge the people of Iraq to do is to be calm,” Kerry said. “There will be little international support of any kind whatsoever for anything that deviates from the legitimate constitutional process that is in place and being worked on now.”