Iraqi army calls on Kurdish forces to vacate Khanaqin

Diyala, 2021: A policeman of the Kurdistan Regional Government KRG on duty in Khanaqin. Hawri Azad

By Hawry Azad

The commander of the joint operations in Diyala called on the Peshmerga (fighter) forces, the police and the Asayish (Security) of the Kurdistan Regional Government KRG to evacuate their headquarters in Khanaqin district and withdraw as soon as possible.

This demand came on Wednesday, October 5, after a visit by the commander of joint operations in Diyala and the commander of the first division of the Iraqi army to the headquarters of the KRG security forces in Khanaqin district, northeast of Baghdad.

A commander in the Khanaqin Police of the Regional Government told (KirkukNow), "After they asked us to vacate our headquarters, we have addressed the Presidency of the Republic through the representative in the Iraqi Parliament, Suzan Mansour, who in turn spoke with the Ministry of Defense and they told us after that that the matter had been suspended."

One day later, on October 6, a representative of the Joint Operations Command in Diyala visited again the headquarters and stationing points of the security forces of the Regional Government in Khanaqin, in addition to requesting data on the numbers of its armed forces, they insisted on evacuating the headquarters and bases, the source in Khanaqin police added.

Unlike Kirkuk and other disputed areas, the Peshmerga forces, the police, and the Asayish of the regional government returned and were stationed in Khanaqin district for several years, and these forces participate in managing the security file in the district.

Khanaqin District, home to 90,000 Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens, Sunnis and Shias, is part of Diyala province and is one of the disputed territories which extends from Khanaqin, on the border with Iran, to the northern oil-rich city of Kirkuk up to Shingal (Sinjar), home to the Ezidi community, in Mosul, in the far west, on Iraq-Syria borders.

Most of the disputed territories were under control of the Kurdish Peshmerga forces up to October 2017, when the Iraqi Security Forces ISF took over control of these territories following the defeat of ISIS.

An official source in the police battalion of the KRG in Khanaqin, anonymously told (KirkukNow) affirmed they were tasked to safeguard the state departments, universities and institutes of the regional government, in addition to protecting the Alwand Dam, “but the delegation that visited us informed us that the forces affiliated with the Iraqi federal government will be responsible for those tasks and we must evacuate the area."

This is the second time this year that the Joint Operations Command in Diyala has called for the evacuation of the headquarters and locations where the Kurdish forces of the KRG are stationed in Khanaqin.

"Their demands this time regarding our withdrawal from Khanaqin are serious and we are awaiting orders from our higher authorities," the source added.

End of August, the KRG has withdrawn its security forces (Asayish) from the center of Khanaqin whom were replaced with the Iraqi army, following the tensions in Baghdad and the imposition of a curfew in all Iraqi provinces except the Kurdistan Region of Iraq KRI.

The decisions coincided with demonstrations in Baghdad, especially in the heavily fortifies Green Zone and several other Iraqi provinces when supporters of the Shia influential leader Muqtada Sadr came into clashes with security forces and pro-Iran militias of Popular Mobilization Forces PMF, following a message from the movement's leader Muqtada al-Sadr announcing his resignation from political affairs.

Khanaqin district in Diyala province in addition to Kirkuk, part of and Ninewa and Salahaddin, is part of the disputed territories that a three-stage process has been outlined in Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution in 2005 to put an end to Kurdistan Regional Government KRG and the Federal Iraqi government dispute over these areas.

Article 140 stipulates normalization, a population census and a referendum on the status of the territories, yet it has not been materialized up the preset, leaving the area in security gap, missing basic public services.

joint center of the army and Peshmerga has been established in Khanaqin and several other disputed areas for military coordination to track the remnants of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria ISIS and tighten security procedures.

According to information obtained by (KirkukNow), the presence of forces affiliated with the regional government falls within a previous agreement concluded between the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan PUK which had an upper hand in Khanaqin up to October 2017 and the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, yet not an official agreement between the KRG and the federal government.

At the present time, the senior officials of the PUK, through its representatives in the Iraqi parliament and the Presidency of the Republic, is trying to address the issue. None of the headquarters where the Kurdish forces are stationed have been evacuated up to the present.

Over six armed forces are deployed wthin the borders of Khanaqin district, including the Iraqi army, the Peshmerga, the Federal Police, the Popular Mobilization Forces PMF, the Asayish of the Kurdistan Region and the local police of the Iraqi Ministry of Interior.

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