Peshmerga, Iraqi army prepare to work together in disputed areas
Kurdish Peshmerga forces and members of the Iraqi army recently began joint-field surveys in areas disputed between the central and regional governments.
The aim, said a senior Peshmerga Ministry official on Wednesday, is for the forces to cooperate in areas where Islamic State militants remain a threat.
The statement comes following weeks of multiple rounds of meetings between the ministry and the federal Iraqi military, wherein both agreed to form two high-level and several low-level committees charged with facilitating coordination and cooperation between the two sides in providing security in disputed territories.
“The joint committees plan to… conduct a field study of those regions, and consequently, create what is to become the front-line of the Peshmerga Forces and Iraqi Army,” said Jabar Yawar, Secretary-General of the Peshmerga Ministry, on a government website.
Yawar added that the committees have been participating in an ongoing operation in Salahuddin Province’s Tooz District and Kifri in the province of Diyala.
“We plan to redistribute military forces, be them Iraqi or Peshmerga,” the official explained, adding that they would “relocate” armed units from areas that are now stable and redeploy them to those where the Islamic State still poses a threat.
The Peshmerga have been some of the most effective ground troops in the battle against the Islamic State in Iraq and were instrumental in containing and advancing against the jihadist group in the country’s north.
In the military operation to liberate Mosul, the self-proclaimed capital of the Islamic State in Iraq, Peshmerga forces broke the line of defense the group was holding and took several areas in the eastern and northern parts of the city, in coordination with Iraqi forces and the US-led coalition.
Following the Kurdistan Region’s September 2017 referendum on independence, however, cooperation between the two forces abruptly ended, with Peshmerga being pushed from disputed territories by Iraqi military forces and militias.
Fears that the Islamic State would re-emerge in vulnerable areas have prompted local and international officials to urge that Iraqi and Kurdish troops return to their previous united front against the common jihadist threat.
These latest developments showcase an increased, though often tentative, cooperation between Baghdad and Erbil and a recent general strengthening of relations between them.