The city of Kirkuk’s acting governor, Rakan Saed al-Jabouri, claimed this week that his governing administration received approval from the central Iraqi government to allow international and domestic flights to utilize Kirkuk’s military airport. The airport is allegedly scheduled to be open to commercial flights starting next week. Governor Jabouri stated that, “The reopening of Kirkuk International Airport … will provide service for one and half million people from Kirkuk and three million people of other provinces like Diyala, Saladin and south of Mosul.”
According to Jabouri, the approval came from Minister of Transport Kadhim al-Hamami and Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. He went on to say that the first international flights will be from Lebanon, Iran, and Turkey while domestic flights would be to Erbil, Sulaymaniyah, Baghdad, and Basra. A portion of the airport was allocated for civil aviation when Governor Najmaldin Karim was in office. However, the project never took off. Governor Jabouri insists that the airport will strictly be for commercial flight use per the new governmental decree. Despite Jabouri’s claims, no official decree from the Iraqi government is on record. Local media has not been able to verify the validity of his statements either.
The airport is part of the K-1 military base that was once known as Forward Operating Base (FOB) Warrior, used almost exclusively by U.S. and coalition troops during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Before that is was an Iraqi Army Air Force base under the Saddam era regime. Recently it was used by the Kurdish Peshmerga and U.S.-led coalition special operations during the Islamic State conflict. The base was taken over by Iraqi Security Forces and its paramilitary forces last October. The base sits amidst conflict and has for some time now.
It has long been speculated and rumored that the Kirkuk airfield would be converted into a commercial airport by the local populace; this rumor has been flying around now for several years. Kirkuk as a whole is a heavily disputed area by the Kurdish and Arab occupants; both Iraqi and Kurdish military forces want control of it for its oil revenue. At the same time, Islamic State sleeper cells have carried out numerous attacks on villagers and security forces alike, utilizing ambush tactics and improvised explosive devices (IEDs). All of this together makes it seem highly unlikely that the airfield will be put to civilian use anytime soon.
Featured image courtesy of the author.