By Tim Kilbride
Special to American Forces Press Service
, June 1, 2007 – Day-to-day security concerns in the three provinces making up Iraq's Kurdistan region are now the direct responsibility of Iraqi representatives, a Multinational Force Iraq official said yesterday. The provinces of Sulaymaniyah, Erbil and Dahuk transferred as a bloc to regional Iraqi control during a May 30 ceremony, said Air Force Maj. Gen. Kurt Cichowski, deputy chief of staff for strategy, plans and assessment, during a call with "bloggers" and online journalists.
The transfer means the Kurdistan regional government, as an element of the government of Iraq, will oversee the Iraqi army and police, as well as ancillary security forces working in the area, Cichowski said. Such supplementary forces include the officially sanctioned "peshmerga," now known as the Kurdish Regional Guards, he explained.
The region has been administered by the Kurdistan regional government since 2003, the general said, and provinces transferred all at once instead of individually at that government's request.
The transfers were conditioned on the achievement of four key standards, graded by U.S. and Iraqi officials, Cichowski said. These were: security in the region; the capabilities of the Iraqi security forces in the area, with a focus on the police; local governance capability; and the status of the relationship between coalition forces and the local government.
Basically, Cichowski said, the key questions on readiness are, "What is happening in the provinces and can a local government take care of it, primarily with the domestic police?"
Sulaymaniyah, Erbil and Dahuk became the fifth, sixth and seventh provinces to transfer to Iraqi control.
Describing the significance of the transfer, Cichowski said the Kurdish leadership has been very engaged in Iraq's national political process and will continue to make use of the Iraqi army in securing the region, as well as continue to share Kurdish forces for security operations elsewhere in the country.
The Kurdish region is "an indivisible part of the government of Iraq as a whole," Cichowski said, citing the Iraqi national security advisor and the prime minister of the Kurdish regional government.
Describing the region's relative prosperity, Cichowski noted, "The environment up north is a little different than in the other parts of Iraq."
The area features four-star hotels, modern construction and a growing roster of international airlines, he said. That prosperity is part of what made the transfer of security possible, Cichowski said. While coalition force levels in the region are expected to remain the same, "there is a very important change in status."
Going forward, the general said, the coalition will need to coordinate with Kurdish government authorities prior to conducting training or exercises with the regional security forces.
(Tim Kilbride is assigned to New Media, American Forces Information Service.)
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