A lot of speculation, hearsay, and high hopes have been put towards the reintegration of Kurdish Peshmerga military forces into providing security in Kirkuk alongside Iraqi forces. Now Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi will be make good on his promise during elections, that a solution would be found regarding Kirkuk and the desire to see an official Kurdish security presence in the region.
According to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Prime Minister Abadi will be forming a brand new Kurdish military unit in Kirkuk that will be under the Iraqi army’s command. The deputy head of the PUK, Yasin Ezzadin stated, “It is not clear yet how the military unit will be formed, but it will be part of Iraqi army and consisted of only Kurdish residents of Kirkuk.” Ezzadin went on to assure that the units primary task would be to function as an essential security force for the city of Kirkuk. Traditionally the PUK have had an incredibly strong presence in Kirkuk and many of the southern territories considered to be part of Kurdistan. While the Kurds’ only gained control of Kirkuk after driving out the Islamic States’ forces there, they held onto it until late 2017. In October, Iraqi supported Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitary units began an incursion into Kirkuk, forcing the then occupying, PUK-backed Peshmerga forces there to retreat after some confusion. This was done by Iraq in response to Kurdistan’s attempt to hold an independence referendum around the same time. Now, the PUK wishes to return and become active in the region once again.
Deputy head Ezzadin informed local media that recruitment for the new unit had not begun yet but plans to setup an assessment and selection program was scheduled to be put into place soon. Ezzadin added, “We believe that the establishment of this military unit is harmful, and Kurdistan’s political parties must stop this process since based on the Iraqi constitution, Kirkuk is a disputed area and has to have a joint administration.” Since Iraqi security forces have taken control of Kirkuk, the city has suffered mild instability as well as frequent attacks by ISIS sleeper cells.
Featured image: Haider Al-Abadi, Prime Minister of Iraq speaking to the media following the Counter-ISIL Coalition Small Group Meeting in London, 22 January 2015. By Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Flickr: Counter-ISIL Coalition Small Group Meeting) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons