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KRG, Iraq interior ministers talk disputed territory, border security in Erbil

Iraqi interior minister Othman al-Ghanimi flew into Erbil on Wednesday morning to meet with his Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) counterpart and discuss national security, particularly in territories disputed by Erbil and Baghdad.

Ghanimi met KRG interior minister Rebar Ahmed to discuss security in the disputed areas and at border crossings, according to the KRG’s representative to Baghdad.

“The main aim of the meeting between the Iraqi interior ministry and the KRG interior ministry is to strengthen security cooperation in disputed areas, as well as at the border crossings,” Faris Issa told Rudaw English on Wednesday.

Wednesday’s meeting comes after Iraq’s defense ministry and the KRG’s Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs agreed earlier this month to establish three joint coordination rooms between the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and the Peshmerga to eliminate Islamic State (ISIS) cells active in the disputed areas, which stretch across Kirkuk, Diyala, Salahaddin and Nineveh provinces.

At the height of its power between 2014 and 2016, ISIS controlled an area roughly the size of Great Britain, spread across both Iraq and Syria. Although Baghdad announced the territorial defeat of ISIS in Iraq in December 2017, remnants of the group have returned to their earlier insurgency tactics, ambushing security forces, kidnapping and executing suspected informants, and extorting money from vulnerable rural populations, particularly in the disputed territories.

The joint coordination rooms will be located in Kirkuk, Diyala, and Nineveh, according to Brigadier General Yehia Rasool, spokesperson for the Iraqi Commander-in-chief.

Earlier this year, the US-led coalition withdrew from several Iraqi bases and repositioned troops after successes in the campaign to defeat ISIS, and to protect personnel amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

British troops withdrew from Taji military camp in northern Baghdad and handed over the training mission to Iraqi security forces earlier this month, while international forces handed control of six other military bases to the Iraqis in March: Abu Ghraib near Baghdad, K-1 in Kirkuk, al-Qaim near the Syrian border, Qayyarah in western Iraq, al-Sqoor in Mosul, and al-Taqaddum in Anbar.

ISIS has vowed to exploit the drawdown of coalition troops in Iraq. It welcomed the withdrawals in a 33-minute recording released on messaging app Telegram on May 28, titled “The Crusaders Will Know Who Will Win in the End”.

Last week, ISIS claimed in its weekly propaganda newspaper al-Naba that its militants had carried out 28 attacks in Iraq between July 16 and 22 alone – mainly in Diyala.

In a visit to Erbil last week, US-led counter-ISIS coalition spokesman Col. Myles Caggins III said coordination between Kurdish and Iraqi armed forces is central to the elimination of the terror group.

“ISIS remains a threat, but they are not able to conduct large-scale attacks,” the coalition spokesman told Rudaw last week.

“Three years ago ISIS was defeated in Mosul, and it was due to a joint and strong coordination between Peshmerga, Iraqi security forces, Popular Mobilization Forces, and counter terrorism forces,” Caggins said.

“We are here in Erbil today to make sure the joint coordination rooms between Peshmerga and Iraqi army are activated, to eliminate ISIS in the disputed areas.” Source