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

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs