A group of Kurdish Peshmerga officers are back Kirkuk Centre to represent the Kurdish Regional government KRG in the joint operation center in K1 military base northwest of the city.
The joint operation center was approved following months of negotiations between Baghdad and Erbil to stand in the face of attacks by remnants of the Islamic State IS militants lately escalated in the disputed territories, particularly the suburbs of Kirkuk.
On May 23rd, the center held its first meeting in four years marking the return of the Peshmerga, Kurdish fighter, to the center of the northern oil rich city.
Major General Tahsin al-Khafaji, spokesperson for Iraq’s joint operations’ command, told KirkukNow eight officers of Brigades one and two of ministry of Peshmerga are deployed in the joint center of Peshemrga and Iraqi forces in K1.
The Iraqi ministry of defense and KRG ministry of Peshmerga have held several meetings to establish joint rooms and centers to coordinate operations in Baghdad, Erbil, Kirkuk, Makhmour, Diyalah and Mosul.
The Kurdish Peshmerga controlling Kirkuk have marched toward the disputed territories following retreat of Iraqi forces in the face of IS militants in 2014. The Iraqi government have announced the defeat of IS in 2017 and implemented law enforcement operation to retake control of the disputed territories in response to a referendum for independence by the Kurds, pushing the Peshmerga back to tis bases ahead of 2014.
A senior security official unauthorized to speak to the media said five Peshmerga officers have returned to Kirkuk and participated in K1 meeting about their duties.
Major General Abdulkhaliq Talaat, representative of ministry of Peshmerga in the Iraqi joint operations’ command said in a press conference on Monday, posted by the ministry website, “an agreement was made to establish four active join rooms between Iraqi army and the Peshmerga in Diyala, Kirkuk and Nineveh.”
“Kirkuk room are in office and joint operation room of Diyala will be in Khanaqin and two others in Mosul and Makhmour will be in place soon,” he added.
“The joint rooms will build trust and joint operations to be launched in the future.”
According to the Iraqi constitution, the Federal and the regional government can jointly run the disputed territories.
The disputed territories extend from Khanaqin in the east on the border with Iran to the oil rich city of Kirkuk heading to the west of Mosul in Shingal, home to Ezidi ethno-religious minority, on the border with Syria.
The northern oil-rich city of Kirkuk, Iraq's second largest oil reserves, is ethnically a mixed province of 1.2 million Kurds, Arabs, and Turkmen. It has long been at the center of disputes between Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government KRG.
Diyala joint operations center opened its office on May 19, Colonel Nabil Mohammed, representative of the Pehsmerga in the center said.
On May 20, the Iraqi troops commenced a 3-day operation in Kirkuk rural areas to eradicate remnants of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria ISIS whom pose an eminent threat to security and stability in the region in the last couple of months.
The operation followed a series of deadly attacks by the extremist militants in the towns of Daquq, Hawija and Pirdy of Kirkuk in April and May.
The centers are tasked to share intelligence information about Daesh moves, Khafaji said. “To curb smuggling and waste of the country resources, joint operation to be launched soon in the disputed territories, particularly in the areas of security gaps.”
Khafaji said other centers to open offices on this week in Mosul, Shingal and other areas.
Kurdish officials and commanders warned the Iraqi government of the threats posed by the extremist militants in the absence of joint operations in areas uncovered by Baghdad and Erbil following the tension sparked by October 2017 events.
Acting governor of Kirkuk said in a press conference on May 2nd violent acts escalated by Daesh in Kirkuk due to security gap between Iraqi forces and the Peshmerga.
Kurds were controlling Kirkuk till 2017 when the so-called Islamic State ISIS was ousted wanted Kirkuk, 238 kilometers north of Baghdad, to become part of the Kurdistan region, which has been opposed by the Arab and Turkmen populations.
Major General Qaraman Kamal, deputy of Peshemrga chief-in-command, denied to give further details about the process of joint centers saying all was declared to media.
Lately, Arabs and Turkmen reject the return of the Peshmerga to Kirkuk and prefer the security file still to be run by Iraqi forces.
Currently, Iraqi army, local and federal police along with PMF are under Kirkuk joint operations’ command, an umbrella for security forces running the security of Kirkuk.
Following the military defeat of ISIS, discord over security arrangements, public services, and the lack of a unified administration in the disputed territories, have plagued victims and survivors.
Mahdi Taqi, member of parliamentary defense and security committee, said in a press conference on May 23 military centers are established for joint operations not for separating the areas controlled by Peshemrga, PMF or other forces.
“We have proposed coordination between the Peshemrga and the federal forces in the areas where no troops are based. It’s time for both sides to direct the nozzle of their rifles toward the enemies.”