Iraqi forces seize more areas as outnumbered Kurds leave
October 19, 2017
Kurdish fighters pulled out of disputed areas across northern and eastern Iraq on Tuesday, one day after giving up the vital oil city of Kirkuk — a dramatic redeployment of forces that opened the way for government troops to move into energy-rich and other strategically important territories.
The vastly outnumbered Kurdish forces, known as the peshmerga, appeared to have bowed to demands from the central government that they hand over areas outside the Kurds’ autonomous region, including territory seized from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group in recent years.
The evacuations exposed a Kurdish leadership in turmoil in the wake of last month’s vote for independence as Iraq’s central government shores up its hand for negotiations over resource-sharing with the country’s self-ruling minority.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi acknowledged the power shift, saying Iraqi forces took over the disputed areas from the Kurds with barely a shot fired.
“I call on our citizens to celebrate this day, because we have been united,” Abadi said, calling the independence vote “a thing of the past” as he offered to begin talks with the Kurdish regional government.
The developments followed weeks of political crisis precipitated by the Kurdish leadership’s decision to hold the referendum for independence in territories beyond the boundaries of its autonomous region in northeast Iraq.
The Iraqi government, as well as Turkey and Iran, which border the land-locked Kurdish region, rejected the vote. The United States also opposed the vote, saying it was a distraction on the war against ISIL.
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