ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraqi forces continue their latest campaign against the Islamic State (IS) in the outskirts of Diyala, Salahuddin, and Kirkuk for the second day in a row, while a Peshmerga commander questioned the ability of those forces to secure those lands.
The campaign was launched on Wednesday with the participation of the army, the Federal Police, Special Ops, Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi, and the Diyala and Salahuddin Police, in coordination with the Peshmerga forces and with the support of the Air Force and the global Coalition (against IS), Security Media Center (SMC) said in a statement.
The Peshmerga forces did not participate in the campaign, but Iraqi troops informed them of the launch of the operation in anticipation of any attempt by IS members fleeing into territories run by the Kurdistan Regional Government, a Peshmerga Commander told Kurdistan 24.
The operation aims to clear areas in the vast desert border triangle between Kirkuk, Diyala, and Salahuddin, which has recently seen insurgent attacks, bombings, ambushes, and kidnappings.
The campaign is called “Revenge of the Martyrs” in honor of the eight persons IS kidnapped and executed shortly after.
In the statement, the SMC said the federal police killed five terrorists and destroyed five explosives-filled barrels, seized various weapons and ammunition, destroyed a training center of the terrorists in the village of Orouba, and purged the road to the north and south of the Jambur oil fields.
Lieutenant Colonel Atta Mala-Star, the commander of the third regiment of the Peshmerga forces in Garmiyan, told Kurdistan 24 the campaign would not bear fruit without any role for the Kurdish forces.
He added that the federal police arrested, in that region alone, 10 suspects and destroyed four tunnels.
“During the raids, the Iraqi forces suffered casualties.”
Lt. Col. Mala-Star stated that thousands of fighters are involved in the offensive with extensive participation by the Air Force.
The Kurdish officer said that the army and Shia-dominated militias could not protect those areas since the withdrawal of the Peshmerga forces in the wake of the repercussions of the Kurdistan Region’s independence referendum.
He added that IS exploited the withdrawal of Kurdish forces and established a foothold in those areas, which eased the terrorists’ small-scale operations in the region.
Lt. Col. Mala-Star also highlighted the Kurds’ familiarity with the areas Iraqi security forces are now tasked with protecting and pointed to the superior knowledge of the Kurdish forces in that regard, thus concluding the necessity of the Peshmerga’s presence.
IS has recently intensified attacks on Kurdish villages in disputed areas, prompting residents to take part in defending their areas and demanding the return of the Peshmerga.
Peshmerga officials and the anti-IS Coalition, formally known as Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), recently met to assess the security situation in the contested areas between Erbil and Baghdad.
According to a Peshmerga Ministry statement, “both sides agreed on the need for an immediate review of security and military plans in the disputed areas.”