Washington D.C., Asharq Al-Awsat- The US Pentagon yesterday was careful not to disclose its full plans for the areas being disputed by the Iraqi central government and the Kurdistan Regional government [KRG]. The US fears that these areas may become the site of the most dangerous border confrontation in Iraq.
After the commander of US forces in Iraq, General Ray Odierno, announced the possibility of a joint-military force comprised of Iraqi, Kurdish, and US troops being dispatched to the disputed areas in northern Iraq, a Pentagon spokesman informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “we are still in the first stage of talks, and I do not want to predict how long this operation will last.”
The Pentagon spokesman confirmed that the Iraqi Interior Minster and the Minister of Defense, along with KRG Minister of Interior and the Commander of the Peshmerga forces, had participated in the initial discussions with General Odierno on Sunday. The Pentagon spokesman also clarified that what General Odierno conceives is a “temporary joint force comprised of Iraqi security forces, US forces, and the Peshmerga forces, to prevent terrorists from exploiting the disputed areas [in northern Iraq].” The spokesman also stressed that this “temporary initiative is a confidence-building exercise for the sake of progress and will not affect the withdrawal of US troops in a responsible manner from Iraq. We are fully committed to implementing the Security Agreement.”
The Pentagon spokesman declined to go into details of how US forces would be legally permitted to deploy to civilian areas in Iraq following their former withdrawal from such areas on 30 June, merely stating that “any potential temporary deployment to the disputed areas in northern Iraq must take place with the consent of the Iraqi government and in coordination with it, as well as be consistent with all security provisions of the Security Agreement.”
Asharq Al-Awsat received no reply to inquiries made to the US army in Iraq, and the Pentagon spokesman stressed that it is too early to go into these details, and that US forces are still engaged in talks with Iraqi officials over forming this force, adding “these consultations are an important initial step towards creating meaningful dialogue on the key issues of defining a joint-security framework for the disputed areas.”
A committee comprised of representatives of the Iraqi government, US forces, and the KRG was recently formed to look into the formation of a temporary joint-force and submit proposals on its mechanisms and form of leadership.
Commander of US forces in Northern Iraq, Major General Robert Caslen said last week that the competition for land and resources between the Iraqi Central government and the KRG “could certainly resolve in an ethnic, lethal-force engagement”
Caslen, who is in command of multinational forces in the provinces of Salaheddin, Diyala, Nineveh, Kirkuk, and Arbil, spoke of the need for “an attempt to involve the Peshmerga forces and the Iraqi army.” Major General Caslen added that he often works with both sides and combines them in joint-operations, but he is in need of “the aid of high-ranking officials in Baghdad and Arbil.” This is what General Odierno is now working towards.