Kamal Kirkuki, commander of the Peshmerga forces in western Kirkuk, Photo from Rudaw video
KIRKUK, Kurdistan Region – Peshmerga forces will take part in any offensive to liberate Hawija in southern Kirkuk from the Islamic State (ISIS) and the Kirkuk administration will run the district after it is freed, a Kurdish military official said
“Kurds have already decided that they are participating in any offensive to drive ISIS out of Hawija; they must be evicted from the land of Kurdistan and we have insisted on this decision,” Kamal Kirkuki, commander of the Peshmerga forces in western Kirkuk, told Rudaw TV.
Kirkuki noted that Hawija is part of Kirkuk province “and it will remain under control of the province’s authorities, just like any other town or district of Kirkuk.”
Kirkuki disclosed that “no timeframe has been set yet to launch the offensive against terrorists in Hawija. But, our forces from the western Kirkuk front are prepared for any possibilities.”
About the involvement of Shiite militia forces in the anticipated battle, Kirkuki explained that the Peshmerga forces will launch the offensive “from the west of Kirkuk and the Shiite militia will push forward from territories under their control.”
Peshmerga commanders and Shiite militia leaders met on Wednesday in Kirkuk to discuss operations to retake the southern and western areas of the province from ISIS.
The meeting, hosted by Najmadin Karim, the Kirkuk governor who is also the head of the security committee, was attended by Peshmerga commanders from the 70 and 80 brigades. Also present was Hadi al-Amri, secretary general of the Badr Organization, a main force in the Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi.
They discussed the urgent need to recapture the southern and western parts of Kirkuk, in particular Hawija, said a statement released by the governor’s office.
While the two forces are agreeing to coordinate militarily, they will not form a joint force for the operation.
Establishing a humanitarian corridor for civilians escaping areas under ISIS control was also discussed by the military leaders.
Located at a crossroads, Hawija connects the three provinces of Kirkuk, Nineveh and Salahaddin.
With just over 400,000 inhabitants, predominantly Sunni Arabs, the district has been at the center of an insurgency since 2004.
Large parts of oil-rich Kirkuk lie in the so-called “disputed territories” that are claimed both by the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Shiite-led federal government in Baghdad.