Kurdish Security Forces (KSF)
The Kurdistan Regional Government [KRG] maintained its own regional security forces, the Peshmerga, as set forth in the constitution. The two main parties of the Kurdish region maintained ties to these Peshmerga units, which remained separated in practice along party lines, as well as to other security and intelligence units currently outside KRG or central government control. KRG security forces and intelligence services detained suspects in KRG-controlled areas. The poorly defined borders between the KRG and the central government and contested areas of authority remained a cause of confusion, and therefore concern, with regard to the jurisdiction of security and courts.
Actual integration of Kurdish Security Forces (KSF) into the ISF occurred when PM Maliki recognized four Peshmerga Regional Guards Brigades (RGBs) as part of the ISF in April 2010, opening the way for these units to receive training and equipping assistance from USF-I. The unification of these RGBs may serve as a model for KSF-ISF integration in the years ahead, but lack of clarity on, or rather the loss of, command and control (C2) relationships associated with integration has made KRG put the brakes on further integration of Peshmerga for the time being.
The Kurdistan Regional Government area remains the safest and most stable region of Iraq, although isolated acts of terrorism occasionally occur. The relatively homogenous Kurdish population and the presence of the KSF mitigate the threat of AQI and other terrorist attacks in the North and reduce ethnic tensions that plague other cities in Iraq. Turkish and Iranian operations against Kurdish terrorist groups along their borders with the KRG have not led to significant numbers of refugees, collateral damage, or political fallout, but they remain potential flashpoints in the GoI’s efforts to improve bilateral relations.
The results of provincial elections in January 2009 reduced Kurdish influence in the disputed areas, including Ninewa, Salah ad Din, and Diyala. In particular, the transfer of power from the Kurds to the mostly Sunni al-Hadba Gathering List in Ninewa precipitated a Kurdish boycott of the provincial council and led to a total impasse in Arab-Kurd tensions. The al-Hadba List continues to call for the removal of Peshmerga and Kurdish Assayish security forces from the province, which has increased tensions in the area.
At the same time, efforts to integrate the Peshmerga into the ISF are ongoing. The establishment of Combined Security Mechanisms in the disputed territories appears to have reduced the potential for inadvertent clashes between IA and Peshmerga forces. However, Arab political leaders remain wary that the Kurds will use the purely securitycentric agreement to justify political expansion of the KRG to the border of every Peshmerga unit’s area of operations.
In many disputed areas adjacent to the KRG — Ninewa, Kirkuk, and to a lesser extent, Diyala — tensions remain high between the Peshmerga and the ISF. Many of these areas are ethnically mixed and resource-rich, and both the KRG and GoI are attempting to assert security primacy in the absence of a clear political arrangement. Currently, it appears unlikely the IA or Peshmerga will intentionally instigate a military confrontation, preferring to negotiate acceptable results. However, after U.S. Forces departed, opportunities for miscalculation or provocation rose.
The KRG continued to make progress during 2010 in its strategic goal of clarifying the legal status of Kurdish Security Forces: Peshmerga (military), Zervani (police), Assayesh (internal security), and Parastin/Zenyari (intelligence). In 2003, under Coalition Provisional Authority 91, the PUK and Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) Peshmerga were both classified as militia. In 2005, Article 9 of the Iraqi Constitution outlawed independent political party militias, while a single guard force beholden to the regional government was authorized under Article 121. In 2006, the Iraqi Kurdish Parliament (IKP) approved legislation outlining a framework for Kurdish Peshmerga unification and integration into the IA, but did not identify a timeline. Following elections in June 2009, the 6th KRG was formed in October 2009, merging the final party-controlled ministries into single KRG entities. In December 2009, yet to be passed draft legislation introduced in the IKP called for, “disarming militias/unregulated forces for the building of one force.” In January 2010, the PUK and KDP command authorities were brought under the control of the new ministry.
In January 2010, the first integrated, apolitical Peshmerga brigade was formed as a Regional Guard Brigade (RGB), with three more formed and integrated by March 2010. In April 2010, KRG Minister of Peshmerga Affairs, Jafar Mustafa Ali, asserted the two commands of Peshmerga were united, with a total number of 90,000 men under the ministry’s authority. Minister Jafar also confirmed the ministry’s financial and administrative unification. Although the four RGBs have been integrated, Kurdish intelligence forces continued to operate under political party control. In April 2010, the IKP ratified the 2010 KRG budget. Portions of the budget still allocated funds to both KDP and PUK Assayesh forces, with a note “to unify the budget of the two administrations within the next six months.” The ministerial advisory team was established in Irbil in April 2010, and on April 16, 2010, PM Maliki acknowledged the RGBs as part of the ISF. PM Maliki’s letter, recognizing the integrated RGBs as security forces of Iraq, enabled USF-I to incorporate them into the training and equipping plan, setting the course for the full integration of Peshmerga forces into ISF training and operations.
On April 28, 2010, the Iraqi Minister of Defense and the Minister of Peshmerga Affairs signed an agreement committing to the establishment of liaison offices at the MoD and the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs. Additionally, the MoD also agreed to several initiatives designed to enhance training opportunities for RGB officers and noncommissioned officers at IA Training Centers and Schools beginning in July 2010.
In May 2010, the Minister of Interior recognized a portion of Kurdish Zerevani forces as agents of the GoI with the responsibility for internal security in the Kurdish region. Specifically, Minister Bolani’s letter acknowledged the lawful security authority under Article 121 of the Iraqi Constitution for those KRG internal security forces in the employ of the Kurdistan Regional Ministry of the Interior and disassociated with political parties and private interests. This federal recognition of Kurdish Government forces paved the way for USF-I’s training and equipping initiatives and set the course for the full integration of Zerevani forces into Iraqi FP training and operations. Later in May 2010, the Kurdish Minister of Interior and Iraqi Minister of Interior signed a tripartite agreement with USF-I outlining steps for integrated training, operating and equipping between the FP and the Zerevani. In this agreement, the ministers clearly stated the future objective of integrating the Zerevani into the FP, unifying this force. With the formation of RGBs and the pending integration of the Zerevani forces into the FP, a unique opportunity has arisen to promote stability between the northern region and the rest of Iraq. Additional resources are required to support advising, training, assisting, and equipping efforts in support of this integration.