Commander of Dijla Forces: We Only Take Orders From Federal Government

November 7, 2012 at 4:49 pm | Posted in Turkmens | Leave a comment
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Commander of Dijla Forces: We Only Take Orders From Federal Government

06/11/2012 05:19:00RUDAW EXCLUSIVE
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Abdulamir Zaidi, commander of the Dijla Operations Command, recently formed on orders from PM Nuri Maliki.

Abdulamir Zaidi is the commander of the Dijla Operations Command, a controversial unit formed by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to combine forces from the Ministry of Interior and police in Kirkuk and Diyala provinces. Provincial officials have opposed the establishment of the unit, and Kurdish politicians have argued that the forces will impede the implementation of Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution which aims to resolve the issue of disputed territories, including Kirkuk, Nineveh and Diyala provinces. Abdulamir Zaidi sat down with Rudaw to discuss the purpose of the Dijla forces and address the concerns of its critics.

Rudaw: What was the goal behind the formation of the Dijla Operations Command?

Abdulamir Zaidi: The goal was to combine the security, police and military forces and to control the security branches in the three provinces.

The name has changed from Diyala to Dijla operations. In the beginning, the command was expected to only operate in Kirkuk and Diyala. However, the Council of Ministries decided to extend its operations to Salahaddin province as well.

Each of the three provinces has its own security units. Before, there was the 12th brigade in Kirkuk and the 4th brigade in Salahaddin, but they did not have any coordination. The 12th brigade was linked to the infantry unit while the police are connected to national intelligence. So the security units lacked coordination and this couldn’t continue. The security units must complete one another. Without a top command to direct them, they will fail.

For example, when I was sent to Salahaddin to contain the prison situation, I noticed there was a huge gap between the security units in the city. The police didn’t know the military’s plan and vice versa.  Having an operations command to coordinate the security units will make it a lot easier to eradicate terrorism and restore law and order.

Having administrative boundaries between these provinces created a safe haven for terrorists. Some of those who carry out terrorist activities in Kirkuk are from Salahaddin, and some of those who carry out terrorist attacks in Diyala are from Kirkuk. They carry out their attacks in a different province and return to their own without being pursued. If intelligence information is exchanged and security units are combined, the situation can be contained with a smaller force. So the goal of this command is to restore order and stability.

“The security units must complete one another. Without a top command to direct them, they will fail.”

Rudaw: So your duty is to make sure the security and police have limited power in these areas, right?

Abdulamir Zaidi: No, we only coordinate their efforts. For example, in Kirkuk, the 12th brigade is deployed southwest of Kirkuk. The police department is responsible for the security of the cities and towns in Kirkuk, and the Peshmerga forces are to the north of Kirkuk.

In 2009, a joint committee from the Ministry of Defense was established to monitor the security situation in these areas through a coordination office. Peshmerga forces should be part of this. This coordination office must report to the operations command. So police, military and Peshmerga must be coordinated. The police will still be responsible for the security of the city, but they must report to the operations command now, as must the 12th brigade.

A lack of coordination between the security units led to the issues we have today. The Dijla Operations Command will make sure the security units are coordinated and intelligence information will be exchanged between them. In each province, an office will be established to gather intelligence information from the security units and forward it to the operations command. U.S. troops used the same method when they were here.

Rudaw: The formation of the Dijla forces has angered Kurds. What do you think about that?

Abdulamir Zaidi: It really surprises me. However, I don’t think it is the Kurds. It is more the political parties and it is an issue between the political factions. The military carries out its duties professionally and doesn’t want to get involved in political matters. I personally will not allow any politicians to interfere in military affairs. Nor will I allow any security or police units under my command to get involved in politics. We know our duty, which is to enforce the law.

Political factions have disagreements today and they reconcile tomorrow. This is the nature of politics. So we don’t want to be involved in these matters as our duty is to provide security for all citizens, including Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen.

Rudaw: But some Kurdish military commanders, such as Mahmoud Sangawi, a senior commander in the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), say that you participated in the Anfal campaign. What do you say about this?

Abdulamir Zaidi: First of all, my unit was not an infantry unit so we didn’t participate in the fight, which took place in the mountains. In 2006 and 2007, a list of Iraqi officers who participated in Anfal was released. Why was my name not on that list? But suddenly, after the formation of the Dijla forces, I participated in Anfal and this should be used against me. You must have concrete evidence when you accuse people of such a thing. The archives of the Ministry of Defense still exist. They can go and take a look.

Rudaw: The governor of Kirkuk is against the Dijla forces. He said that, as long as he is governor, he will not allow this force to move.

“The goal of this force is to provide security for the provinces. Is there really anyone who rejects help, especially when it comes to a security situation?”

Abdulamir Zaidi: To perform our duty we take orders from the federal government. Since Kirkuk is a province of Iraq, the governor must implement the same rules, especially those that come from the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Defense.

The governor is an advisor who handles the administrative units in Kirkuk. As for authority, only the commander in chief has power to direct the Dijla forces. The military has a law. If someone rebels against it and refuses to implement it, he will face charges and be sent to the court. Security units have laws and disciplines that apply to all Iraqis.

Rudaw: The governors of all three provinces are against your intervention in their affairs. Will you be able to fulfill your duty under such circumstances? Don’t you think this might cause disputes between you and finally lead to instability in the provinces?

Abdulamir Zaidi: I am sure that will not happen. The goal of this force is to provide security for the provinces. Is there really anyone who rejects help, especially when it comes to a security situation? Aren’t they fed up with killings, car bombs and bloodshed?

This is about stability and security and they shouldn’t intervene in our affairs. As politicians, their job is to work hard to rebuild this country and provide a better future. Our job is to protect citizens and provide safety for them. We are not there to interfere in their service projects.

Rudaw: What about the absence of the security officials from Kirkuk at your meeting?

Abdulamir Zaidi: They will attend future meetings. We will hold a large meeting for all three provinces in the near future. We are currently preparing to perform our duties. We already started in Kirkuk and Diyala. We expect to start in Salahaddin as soon as we receive the order from the Council of Ministries next week.

Rudaw: The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Ministry of Peshmerga said that if the Dijla forces move forward, the Peshmerga will confront them. What do you say about this?

“We will not confront our own people. That era has passed.”

Abdulamir Zaidi: As I said before, cooperation and agreement about conducting operations in these areas has been discussed in the ministerial committee established in 2009. Iraqi military and Peshmerga have joint patrols. We also exchange intelligence information.

Rudaw: Then why did the Ministry of Peshmerga say that?

Abdulamir Zaidi: The operations command is not a military force. It is only command headquarters. It is the same force, but the name has changed from Diyala to Dijla. We will not increase our forces. We have Kurdish officers in this unit working with us. We don’t have a military unit.

They spread these rumors that we are a large military force and are moving forward. This is not true. What we have now is only an operations command. These rumors have also affected some politicians.

Working in Kirkuk for the past two years, I have built a good relationship with the Kurdish tribal leaders there. They also asked me this question — why are we bringing in these forces? Even some of the politicians asked that question. I told them the same thing I told you: we have not added one soldier to the old unit. We want to increase coordination between the Peshmerga and Iraqi forces.

I contacted Mahmoud Sangawi myself about a group of people who attacked a military base and then fled to the Garmiyan area. Sangawi cooperated with us and handed them over to us.

Rudaw: Can you assure the minister of Peshmerga that you will not confront them?

Abdulamir Zaidi: We will not confront our own people. That era has passed.

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