ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The United States should continue to work with the Kurdish security forces in both the Kurdistan Region and Syria to prevent a possible resurgence of the so-called Islamic State, a US foreign policy and security expert said on Tuesday.
In an interview with Kurdistan 24, Christine Wormuth, director of the RAND International Security and Defense Policy Center, highlighted the role the Kurdish forces played in the defeat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
“The Kurds have been tremendous partners for the United States in the fight against ISIS,” she said, adding the Kurdistan Region Peshmerga as well as the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) “demonstrated their bravery” in the war against the terror group.
“They were really essential partners in pushing ISIS out of Iraq and Syria, so my hope is that the United States will continue to work with the Kurdish security forces.”
Wormuth noted that the US, Iraq, and other countries in the region and abroad should “be concerned about the possibility that ISIS might come back at some point.”
Indeed, senior Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) officials have often warned that the root causes of the terror group’s emergence must be addressed to prevent a resurgence.
“I hope that we continue to work with the Kurdish regional government to cooperate on security matters in the future,” Wormuth told Kurdistan 24.
Wormuth also spoke about relations between the KRG and the Iraqi government, particularly regarding the ongoing dispute surrounding contested areas.
The fate of disputed territories between Erbil and Baghdad, namely Kirkuk, was constitutionally determined based on Article 140, which requires a referendum to be held in the province for people to decide on the future of the province: whether it should be part of the KRG or the federal government.
The date of the referendum was set to December 2007, but over a decade has since passed. The article goes unimplemented and is one of the long-standing disputes between Erbil and Baghdad.
Moreover, the military ousting of Peshmerga forces from Kirkuk and other disputed areas in October 2017 by Iraqi forces and Iran- backed Shia militias has led to a deteriorated security situation in the region. There are also complaints of an ongoing campaign of demographic change in the province with Kurds forcibly removed from their homes and replaced with Arabs.
Wormuth said she hopes both governments “work together to figure out how to deal with some of those territorial disputes.”
“I don’t want to see the Kurdish Peshmerga, for example, going into areas that are contested because I think that, overall, will increase tensions, which isn’t good for anyone.”
Before her role with RAND, Wormuth served as the Undersecretary for Defense Policy of the United States at the Department of Defense from 2014 to 2016 under the Obama administration.