Kurds Deploy Peshmerga Forces to North Iraq in Response to Growing ISIS Threat

Members of the Iraqi-Kurdish Peshmerga forces attend a handover and US military and logistic assistance distribution ceremony to the Peshmerga Ministry of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in the Arbil the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq on November 10, 2020. (Photo by SAFIN HAMED / AFP) …
SAFIN HAMED/AFP via Getty Images

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has deployed Peshmerga forces to northern Iraq to combat “increased threats” of attacks by Islamic State (ISIS), Kurdish news outlet Rudaw reported on Thursday.

The Peshmerga are the military forces of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region. They have recently been deployed to Makhmour and Qarachogh, areas located within the Kurdistan region’s Erbil Governorate, to combat a renewed ISIS security threat “and not to face off with Iraqi forces,” the Ministry of Peshmerga clarified in a statement on Wednesday.

“We announce that no illegal deployment of the Peshmerga forces has been made to face Iraqi forces,” a statement from the ministry read, adding, “What happened was as a result of a recent increase of ISIS threats in the Mount Qarachogh and Makhmour areas.”

Despite a large-scale territorial defeat in Iraq in 2017, ISIS remains active in the country, particularly within a northwestern swath of territory disputed by Erbil Governorate and Iraqi government authorities in Baghdad.

The Iraqi state-sponsored Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) said five of its members were killed in a clash with ISIS terrorists in Diyala province on February 2. At least 11 PMF members were killed by ISIS on January 23 in a reported ambush. ISIS claimed responsibility for a double suicide bombing in Baghdad two days earlier on January 21, which killed at least 32 people in the city’s Tayaran Square.

The attack on Iraq’s national capital prompted Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi — who also serves as the country’s commander in chief of armed forces — to launch a targeted military operation against ISIS named “Revenge of the Martyrs.” Iraqi forces killed three ISIS leaders within a week of the campaign’s launch. One of the slain leaders, Abu Yaser al-Issawi, was killed on January 27 in an operation in the Wadi al-Shay region of Kirkuk Governorate, located north of Baghdad. Assawi referred to himself as ISIS’s deputy caliph.

“We promised and fulfilled. I gave my word to pursue Daesh [ISIS] terrorists, we gave them a thundering response. Our heroic armed forces have eliminated Daesh commander Abu Yaser Al-Issawi as part of an intelligence-led operation,” Kadhimi said in a statement shared on Twitter.

Assawi’s killing fulfilled a promise to the “families of the dead in Tayaran Square, and the PMF [Popular Mobilization Forces],” Iraqi military spokesman Yehia Rasool said on January 28.

ISIS claimed in its weekly propaganda newspaper al-Naba on February 4 that its members had “killed and injured at least 176 people in 19 attacks in Iraq from January 21 to January 27.”

The terror group carried out “1,422 attacks in Iraq in 2020,” with the majority of attacks carried out in eastern Iraq’s Diyala province, the ISIS propaganda outlet Amaq claimed in early February. At least 2,748 people were killed as a result of the attacks last year, according to Amaq.

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