ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – US troops have not been deployed to Kirkuk’s airbase, the Iraqi Joint Operations Command announced on Thursday.
The Iraqi War Media Cell released a statement saying there had been no increase of coalition forces “neither in Kirkuk nor the rest of the Iraqi territory.”
On Wednesday, a member of the Kirkuk Provincial Council alleged that the US had deployed a large number of their troops to the K-1 camp, southwest of Kirkuk, earlier this week.
“US troops have continuously been deployed by helicopters to the K-1 military base since last night,” a council member reportedly told Basnews.
An Iraqi Member of Parliament had also claimed the US troops were sent to stabilize the situation in the disputed province, which has seen a drastic uptick in violence and insecurity since the Oct. 16 attack and takeover by Iraqi forces and the Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi militias.
The Joint Operations Command’s statement denied the claims and reminded that it was Iraq’s “national responsibility” to guarantee the safety of Kirkuk.
“The international coalition’s tasks are limited to training, advising and providing logistical support,” it read.
The US-led international coalition has been supporting the Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmerga forces for the past three years in the fight against the Islamic State (IS).
Coalition forces were not directly involved in the fighting as their efforts were focused on advising the allied forces and providing air support.
Head of the Ministry of Peshmerga Halgurd Hikmat also declared the Ministry had not heard of any deployment of US forces to Kirkuk.
The Iraqi army and the Hashd al-Shaabi, also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), took control of Kirkuk on Oct. 16, including Tuz Khurmatu where the K-1 military base and major oil fields which were under the control of the Kurdistan Region until recently are located.
Kirkuk is an oil-rich province located in the south of the Kurdistan Region and north of Iraq. It is a multi-ethnic province with a diverse religious background made up of Kurds, Turkmen, Arabs, and Christians. Kurds account for the majority of the population.
The province has been under the protection of the Kurdish Peshmerga forces since the emergence of IS in mid-2014 and the collapse of the Iraqi army which failed to defend the region.
Since the Oct. 16 attack, over 170,000 people in Kirkuk have been displaced to Erbil and Sulaimani out of fear for their safety and the risk of abuses by Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed Shia militias.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany