No Need for Iraq’s Federal Police in Disputed Territories, Provincial Officials Say

25/12/2012  RUDAW –  NEHRO MUHAMMAD – KIRKUK, Kurdistan Region – Once Baghdad and Erbil agree to pull back troops from disputed northern territories where they have been locked in a weeks-long stand-off, security there should be maintained by local forces and not the federal police, provincial officials say.

“It is the duty of the provincial police to take care of security in this area. The federal police are to step in only when the provincial police cannot handle an issue,” Rebwar Talabani, deputy head of the Kiruk provincial council, told Rudaw.

Baghdad and Erbil have been locked in a stand-off since November, after Iraq’s Arab Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki deployed his new Dijla force into disputed northern territories that are also claimed by the Kurds. The autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) countered by sending in thousands of its own Peshmarga troops.

Iraq’s Parliament speaker Osama Nujeifi recently said that Maliki and KRG President Massoud Barzani have reached an agreement to pull back their mutual forces.

That has raised questions about whether Baghdad would send in the federal police force to maintain security, or if interior ministry troops already present in the provinces of Diyala and Kirkuk will take over the task. “In our agreement with Baghdad there was no such point as sending in the federal police. The local police is present in those areas,” said Peshmarga ministry spokesman Halgurd Hikmat, who attended the negotiations in Baghdad.

Hikmat said that Erbil and Baghdad already had the joint Golden Lion force in place to maintain security in Kirkuk. That force was deliberately composed as a joint unit of Iraqi soldiers and Kurdish fighters by American forces, which left Iraq at the end of last year, ending an occupation that followed the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein. “It was under the American presence that the Golden Lion was established for these areas, but Maliki formed the Dijla forces to replace this force,” said Talabani. Meanwhile, Abdulhadi al-Hassani, an MP from Maliki’s State of Law Coalition, said that, “The residents of those areas and their local forces should be the ones to protect the place, not any other force.”