Speaking anonymously, one officer from the Tigris Operations Command told NIQASH that, “we asked the peshmerga to withdraw from where they’ve recently deployed to, in order to ease tensions. We’ve received information that peshmerga have come into areas like Tikrit, Hawija and Yayji, dressed as local police and with the cooperation of local security forces,” he explained. “And that concerned us because it means they’ve exceeded their powers.”
Since it was formed in July last year, the Tigris Operations Command has been controversial, as Iraqi Kurdish forces accused it of being another way that the Iraqi government was trying to take power in disputed territories like Kirkuk.
Despite the fact that Kirkuk is outside the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, the Kurdish say they have historic rights to the city, while the government in Baghdad disputes this. In reality though, it has been unclear who is in charge in these disputed territories.
Kurdish armed forces control some areas while Iraq’s federal troops control others. Formerly US troops stationed here were seen as a buffer between the two groups and more recently there’s been a delicate balance, complete with lack of open confrontation. Officially security is supposed to be the duty of local police and local military together with some Kurdish units. All of which is why the addition of a whole new military force last year was so controversial. And the two sides to the dispute – the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga and the Iraqi army – have held their positions ever since.
Neither Jabbar Yawar, spokesperson for the peshmerga, Sarhad Qader, the commander of police forces in Kirkuk province nor the head of the peshmerga's first brigade would comment on the current problems when approached by NIQASH, saying they didn’t have the authority to do so. However one of the commanders of the peshmerga forces in the area told NIQASH anonymously that the peshmerga have been told not withdraw unless orders came through from the top of the Iraqi Kurdish government.