Sunday, January 17, 2010

US continue to deploy troops in Kurdish regions


Baghdad - The United States will continue to deploy US troops in the disputed regions after the withdrawal of American troops from the cities, Maj. General Anthony Cucolo told reporters last Wednesday. “I'd say that the biggest concerns are the Kurd-Arab tension,” the general added.

Under the US-Iraq Status of Forces agreement, the US combat forces will withdraw from Iraqi cities by June 30, 2009, and all U.S. forces will be completely out of Iraq by December 31, 2011. 50,000 troops will stay in Iraq until 2011 for combat missions. In addition, the US army hopes joint patrols between the Iraqi and Kurdish troops will build trust in tense disputed northern areas

Cucolo, who heads 21,000 forces in Northern Iraq, says the majority of the troops will be based in the disputed regions like Kirkuk and Mosul, where there is a risk of Arab-Kurdish tensions. “I do see that when the dust settles on 50,000, perhaps more will be in the north, yes,” he declared

The US forces in and around Kurdistan will focus itself on extremist networks and preventing tensions. “[And] there is a natural tension that requires confidence-building measures in the areas where Kurds and Arabs exist together, or where peshmerga forces exist across the line from Iraqi army forces.”

The general believes that the Kurdish leadership have a desire for unity and integrating the Kurdish peshmerga forces into the Iraqi army. “So I could tell you right now that the current KRG leadership sees on the horizon an integration of the pesh into the Iraqi army.”

In an interview with Jamestown, the Kurdish intelligence chief Masrour Barzani, son of the Kurdish president, confirmed the Kurds will integrate more forces into the Iraqi army, if necessary. “If there is a need to reintegrate more troops, then obviously this is something which will happen,” Masrour Barzani said.

Regarding the unification of the Kurdish armed Peshmerga forces of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the US general says there is a desire among the Kurds to combine them. “I think you're aware there's significant move afoot in the KRG to combine the PUK and the KDP pesh. It's already happened at the minister-of-pesh level -- the equivalent of the minister of defense, if you will -- in the KRG (Photo: Netkurd).

© Rudaw