Erbil and Baghdad have reached an agreement for the joint deployment of forces in the security void between their areas of control where Islamic State (ISIS) militants exploit the absence of both Iraqi and Kurdish forces, according to an official from the Peshmerga ministry.
“There will be joint deployment of forces in the disputed areas to fill the security void,” Jabar Yawar, secretary-general of the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs, told said on Friday.
ISIS militants operate in the disputed areas, regions that both Erbil and Baghdad claim as their own. A “historic distrust and competition” between Erbil and Baghdad has created a security gap that ISIS militants have “successfully exploited,” the Pentagon stated in a report earlier this month.
In some areas, this security gap is up to 40 kilometres wide, according to Peshmerga Brig. Gen. Dler Shko Rashid, and ISIS militants are gaining strength there, carrying out deadly attacks on Kurdish and Iraqi forces and civilians.
The new cooperation agreement came after meetings between Kurdish and Iraqi leadership and military officials in both capitals. Yawar and Jamal Imniki, chief of staff at the Peshmerga ministry, met with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi in Baghdad on May 2.
“Kadhimi in the meeting promised that the problem of the security gaps in the disputed areas would be resolved. Previous agreements between the Peshmerga Ministry and the Iraqi Defence Ministry will have to materialize,” said Yawar.
On May 9, a delegation from the Iraqi Defence Ministry came to Erbil for a second meeting and there they decided to implement a 2020 cooperation agreement. In addition to joint deployments, they will also form “joint operations rooms between the Peshmerga Ministry and the Iraqi Army in the disputed areas,” including Khanaqin, Kirkuk, and Makhmour, Yawar said.
Erbil and Baghdad reached an agreement to coordinate on security in the disputed areas last summer, but it was never implemented.
Peshmerga officials believe this year their negotiations will see more success. “We are very optimistic that there is seriousness on both sides to solve this longstanding issue,” said Yawar.
Peshmerga Minister Shorsh Ismail on Thursday said they have reached “new understandings with the Iraqi Ministry of Defence.” He called it “an important turning point for a concrete agreement that guarantees protection of the security and safety of the region and the complete elimination of terrorist forces.”
Ismail made the comments while visiting Kurdish forces in eastern Nineveh for the Eid al-Fitr holiday that marks the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The two sides will meet again after Eid to work out the details of their cooperation, according to Yawar.