News / Middle East

Q&A with Kirkuk Governor Najmaldin Karim: Peshmerga to Stay 'As Long as Necessary'

Members of the Kurdish security forces stand at a checkpoint during an intensive security deployment on the outskirts of Kirkuk June 11, 2014.
Members of the Kurdish security forces stand at a checkpoint during an intensive security deployment on the outskirts of Kirkuk June 11, 2014.
VOA News
The security situation in Iraq continued its lightening deterioration Thursday as Kurdish forces swept into the strategic northern city of Kirkuk after government troops fled attacks by al-Qaida-linked Sunni insurgents.

The militants, who seized two other key northern cities this week, moved closer to Baghdad while threatening to advance into the heavily Shi’ite south and target holy shrines there.

VOA’s Jeffrey Young spoke with the governor of Kirkuk province, Najmaldin Karim, about the movement of Kurdish Peshmerga forces into that province to protect the city from ISIL insurgents.

Young: What is the situation today in Kirkuk?

Kareem: Kirkuk is a large province. The Arab-inhabited areas in the west and southwest fell to the terrorists two days ago. The rest of Kirkuk – the city itself, the [province’s] north, east and southern areas towards Baghdad – these are all secure and safe and the situation is normal.

Young: What is the size of the Peshmerga military force that has moved into Kirkuk?

Kareem: They are in charge of defending the city from the insurgents, [who have] made a couple of attempts but we repulsed them. The size, I don’t have exact numbers, could be around 15-16,000.

Young: How did the movement of Peshmerga take place? Who did you communicate with?

Kareem: Peshmerga forces have their own command. There is a Peshmerga Ministry. After the army fled and abandoned [its positions], we requested they come and defend most of Kirkuk from the insurgents, to prevent the same thing that happened in Nineveh and Salahaddin.

Young: I take it from what you’re telling me, there is little or no confidence in Kirkuk Governorate that the Ministry of Defense in Baghdad would be able to supply sufficient military or security forces to protect the province?

Kareem: The army doesn’t exist in Kirkuk. It doesn’t exist in a lot of places – in Nineveh and Salahaddin, in parts of Diyala province, in addition to Anbar. As I said, In Kirkuk, [the soldiers] have all left, they’ve deserted. There’s no army anymore in Kirkuk.

Young: How long do you want the Peshmerga force to stay in place in Kirkuk Governorate?

Kareem: As long as necessary.

Young: Does that mean they could establish a permanent presence and become the semi-military security apparatus for the Governorate?

Kareem:  They could, yes. Anything we can do to protect our people within our areas – we will not hesitate to use them.

Young: The Peshmerga are obviously a Kurdish force. Kirkuk Governorate also has other people, Turkmen and a certain number of Arabs living there. Describe how you work this out, so that all parties living in Kirkuk are comfortable with the Peshmerga coming in and becoming the security force.

Kareem:  We have always had Peshmerga in Kirkuk. We just increased their numbers by about one-third. And the governing council, which includes Turkmen and Arabs, has agreed and sees the necessity of having the Peshmerga.

Young: Do you see the possibility of Kirkuk moving closer to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) as a result of this new development?

Kareem:  It depends on what happens in Iraq as a whole. As you know, Kirkuk – along with some other areas in Iraq - is covered by Article 140. As far as an immediate political step, we are trying to control the security situation for the time being.

Young: Do you think the current situation will lend itself to closer ties between Kirkuk and the three governorates that are controlled by the KRG?

Kareem:  There are close ties between Kirkuk and the KRG, just like the relationship with Baghdad. It all depends on Iraq. We don’t even know whether Iraq will remain a unified country. I don’t want to speculate on what’s going to happen a month from now, six months from now.

Young: Can you share anything regarding the communications you’ve had with Baghdad over the last several days regarding this situation?

Kareem:  We are in continuous contact with officials in Baghdad. Our administrative offices are all connected. We get our budget from Baghdad, our police force is part of the Ministry of Interior, which is in Baghdad. We talk to officials frequently to coordinate. They know the army has collapsed. They understand there’s a need to protect these areas and prevent the terrorists from moving into the rest of Kirkuk.

Young: Thank you very much, Dr. Kareem.

You May Like

India PM Modi's Party Distances Itself From Religious Conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Azad Dewani from: United Kingdom
June 16, 2014 8:27 PM
The areas that Peshmerga control now in the province of Kerkuk are majority Kurdish areas with Turkeman minority. The Arab areas are under the control of Arab tribal and ISIL militants. Kerkuk is a Kurdish province and those Arabs were brought by the Iraqi regimes to change the demography of the province. However, These areas are contested and claimed by Kurds since the creation of Iraq as a state. However, the Iraqi government and Kurdistan regional government agreed according to article 140 of the Iraqi constitution to solve this problem. Kurds have waited for 10 years but the Iraqi central government ruled by Arabs is not willing to solve the problem. The refusal of Iraqi government is supported unfairly by the US administration. Its time now that Kurds execute partially this article in the majority Kurdish areas of the province and allow Kurds and Turkmen to live as part of the people of the Kurdish region or as human beings who suffered for a long period of time from the Arabizing policies of denial and pressure. It is wise that the US administration not to lose its only real ally (in addition to Israel) in the Middle East (Kurds) because it wants to favour the status quo that has been brutally imposed upon the Kurdish people. It is time for the independent Kurdish state; real ally of the West and Israel

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid