Iraqi Kurds divided over US military
presence in Kurdistan
By Matt Frazer, Press TV, Erbil
Kurdistan region 'Iraq', — The Iraqi Kurds were one
of the United States' closest allies in the 2003
invasion and in the years since. The removal of
Saddam and his Ba'ath Party regime gave space for
the semi autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government to
develop economically and politically to the relative
peace and prosperity that it enjoys today. However,
the Iraqi Kurdish people are not united on the issue
of when the American troops should fully withdraw.
There is an ongoing debate in Baghdad, only hinted
at and speculated upon, by local and international
media, that is mirrored in Erbil.
Both have given the expected party line - Iraqi
Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has said he has no
plans to extend the stay of US Troops, but is open
to discussion, while the Kurdistan region Defence
Minister, Jabbar Yawar, publicly
welcomed the idea.
But there are dissenting voices.
Last week, the spokesman for the Patriotic Union of
Kurdistan, or PUK, one half of the ruling coalition
of Kurdistan, officially invited the US to maintain
a troop presence after this year.
The PUK rules over the disputed territories, in
particular Kirkuk, where the Kurdish military and
Kurdish-dominated police force, continue to have a
close working relationship with the American troops
in combating insurgents.
Moreover, local Kurdish media are reporting that a
secret agreement has been made between the KDP, the
party of President Barzani and the other half of the
ruling coalition, to create a permanent US military
base in Kurdistan.
Beyond any ideological concerns, experts say the
main practical issue is that of the proficiency of
the Iraqi Army without US oversight. The new Iraqi
Army is in its infancy, and American troops still
take the lead in dangerous anti-terrorist operations
in areas such as Tikrit and Mosul.
If Iraq is taken as a whole, public opinion is
solidly against an extension. Whereas in the KRG,
where there are no US troops, if anything the
opposite is true - as the Kurds want as much support
as possible when dealing with the disputed
territories. The leaderships in both Baghdad and
Erbil will soon have to make a solid decision.
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