Hamada Dizayee, Commander of the Iraqi 1st Border Guard unit told Rudaw’s Hiwa Jamal on Monday that Turkey has asked Iraqi border forces to cooperate with them amid Ankara’s ongoing operation in the border areas, located in the Kurdistan Region
“Turkey has asked to build cooperation with us in order to secure the areas on the Iraqi-Turkish border,” Dizayee said. “We already have cooperation with the Iranian border forces to secure the areas on Iraqi-Iranian borders, and we meet every six months.”
Turkey began fresh air and ground military operations in the Kurdistan Region in mid-June, with the stated aim of removing suspected Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) targets from the area.
Dubbed Operation Claw-Eagle, Ankara launched a set of airstrikes across the Kurdistan Region and Nineveh province on June 15, followed by a ground operation, or Operation-Claw Tiger, on June 17.
Five civilians have been killed since the operations began.
Turkey and the PKK have been fighting each other for decades, resulting in the deaths of over 40,000 people on both sides of the conflict, including civilians. The PKK is an armed group fighting for increased rights for Kurds in Turkey.
“Earlier, there were no military points at the border,” said Dizayee, adding that now the Iraqi border forces are stationed in three military bases in areas on the Iraqi-Turkish border in the Kurdistan Region.
However an army commander claimed last week that Iraqi border forces have stationed troops at five “strategic” positions in Zakho district.
Turkey has conducted airstrikes and ground operations against the PKK within Iraq’s borders for years, accusing the federal Iraqi government and Kurdistan Regional Government of failing to take measures against the group.
Kurds make up the majority of members of the Iraqi border forces units stationed in Dohuk province, with some Arab and Turkmen members. The force was established in 2003 and has been based in Duhok province since, according to Dizayee.
“Our only job is to monitor the borders and prevent smuggling across the border,” he said.
Zebari told Rudaw on Monday that the main task of their forces is to protect the border with Turkey, in order to prevent the presence of “smugglers” between Iraq and Turkey.
“So far we have not had any issues with the PKK and the PKK has not prevented us from carrying out our duties,” Zebari added.
Iraqi security analyst Husham al-Hashimi puts the number of PKK fighters in Iraq, including the Kurdistan Region, at between 8,500 and 10,000, distributed across 81 points and bases.