The Peshmerga are hailed by most Kurds in Iraq as the military force protecting the Kurdish people.
The word Peshmerga literally means "ready to die". It alludes to the famed warrior spirit of the Kurdish fighters.
Most Peshmerga are loyal to either one of Iraq's two main Kurdish political parties - the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) or the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).
The KDP, led by Massoud Barzani, and the PUK, led by Jalal Talabani, each have about 25,000 to 30,000 fighters.
These fighters have become the unofficial standing army of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
But critics - some within the Kurdish community itself - have accused certain Peshmerga commanders of abusing their military power, exploiting political contacts and amassing enormous personal wealth.
Human rights organizations, as well as independent Kurdish figures, have made allegations that the Peshmerga run prisons in which fellow Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen are routinely tortured.
Even Barham Saleh, deputy prime minister of Iraq and a Kurd himself, admitted torture was used in Kurdish prisons - an acknowledgement that was not welcomed by his boss, Jalal Talabani, Iraq's president.
The military force, represented by the Peshmerga, has taken on additional significance in the light of the ongoing conflict in the region between Turkey and the fighters of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
The Peshmerga are staying out of the conflict, avoiding any confrontation with Turkish troops and not coming to the support of the PKK.
This week, Inside Iraq will examine the role played by the Peshmerga and will investigate the charges of corruption and torture.
Our guests this week are:
Falah Mustafa Bakir, minister and head of the Department of Foreign Relations and
Freshta Raper, spokesperson for the Kurdistan National Congress.