ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A senior Kurdish military commander on Thursday said talks of a redeployment of Peshmerga forces to the disputed territories is premature, noting that the US-led coalition is making international efforts in this direction.
Jafar Sheikh Mustafa, commander of the Peshmerga’s 70th Brigade, warned of a deteriorating security situation in the disputed areas as the Islamic State (IS) has increased its guerilla-style tactics in recent weeks.
“The disputed areas suffer from a large security vacuum where almost daily terrorist operations are carried out against Iraqi forces or civilians,” he told Kurdistan 24.
Indeed, the commander’s observations are accurate. On Wednesday night, IS fighters launched an attack on Iraqi security forces, killing and wounding six and leaving others unaccounted for in the town of Jalawla, located in northwestern Diyala Province.
Peshmerga troops were forced to withdraw from their posts in the disputed areas, including Kirkuk and Diyala, when Iraqi forces and Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi militias advanced with tanks to regain control of the regions.
The Oct. 16 military takeover of Kirkuk and other contested areas was Baghdad’s response to the Kurdistan Region’s historic independence referendum a month earlier which received sweeping support for secession from Iraq.
“There are efforts by the international coalition forces, especially the Americans, to form a joint unit between the Iraqi forces and the Peshmerga in the disputed areas via an agreement between all sides,” Mustafa explained.
In recent weeks, high-level US military officials have met with senior Kurdistan Region officials to discuss further cooperation between Iraqi security forces and Peshmerga, especially in the disputed regions.
Mustafa noted, however, that no results had been accomplished regarding the matter and “any talks [related to a redeployment of Peshmerga to disputed areas] will be postponed until after the Iraqi elections.”
Iraq is set to head to the polls on May 12.