Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani announced that the Iraqi federal government has not yet officially asked the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to deploy Peshmerga forces to Iraq's disputed territories in support of the fight against the Islamic State (IS), but that it would welcome such a request.
“So far, there have been no official meetings between Baghdad and us to send Peshmerga [to Kirkuk] to support them [Iraqi forces],” Barzani told reporters during a press briefing in Erbil on Tuesday.
The return of the Kurdish Peshmerga forces to Kirkuk and other areas disputed by Erbil and Baghdad is one of the hot debates in the country as the jihadist group's continue to rise, namely in Kirkuk and southern neighboring provinces.
“This is a topic that concerns us. We are very concerned about the deterioration of security in those areas.”
He continued, saying, "The Kurdistan Region is fully ready to help Baghdad secure the disputed territories," adding that Erbil and Baghdad have a mutual enemy in IS, and the security threats affects= everyone in the country, no matter where they are.
He also mentioned that the KRG would respond positively if they are asked to send forces and provide security to the people of Kirkuk and other disputed territories.
Soon after the emergence of IS in 2014, the Kurdistan Region’s Peshmerga and other security forces protected Kirkuk from attacks by the extremist group. Following the region’s controversial independence referendum held in September, Iraqi troops and Shia militias drove Kurdish forces from Kirkuk and other disputed territories.
Since then, the security situation has considerably deteriorated, with IS activities on the rise, including ambushes, kidnappings, suicide attacks, and execution-style killings.
In mid-June, Peshmerga commander and former speaker of the region's parliament told Kurdistan 24, “After the retreat of the Peshmerga forces from Kirkuk Province, instances of explosions, terrorist attacks have been on the rise and incidents of security failures have contributed to an increase in the risks to the lives of the people of the region."
Recently, officials from various parties in Kirkuk have repeatedly expressed their concerns about the re-emergence of IS in the province and the resulting spike in security incidents, blaming Iraqi forces for failing to protect people from attacks. Some have called for an Iraqi-Kurdish joint command of the province's security.
In a meeting on Monday, Peshmerga forces and the US-led anti-Islamic State (IS) Coalition called for a new security plan for Kurdish-majority areas in disputed territories and outside the current jurisdiction of the Kurdistan Region.
Peshmerga officials and Coalition representatives assessed the security situation in the contested areas, a statement from the Peshmerga Ministry said, noting that “both sides agreed on the need for an immediate review of security and military plans in the disputed areas.”
After three years of fighting in the war-torn country, Iraq declared victory against IS last December. However, since then, the extremist group has resumed insurgent attacks, particularly in Kirkuk, Diyala, and Salahuddin.