The autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq may continue to hold on to territory taken from the Daesh terrorist group after they have been defeated.
A question mark looms over what will happen to areas captured by Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the multi-fronted battle to liberate the oil-rich city of Mosul from Daesh.
Soon after Mosul was seized by Daesh in mid-2014, the KRG occupied Kirkuk to prevent the city from falling to the terrorist group. The ethnically mixed city is among many disputed territories that host a significant Kurdish population and lay outside of the designated KRG boundaries.
Iraqi Kurdish President Massoud Barzani was quoted on Wednesday by the KRG’s Rudaw TV station as saying that Kurdish Peshmerga forces "will not retreat from areas retaken" from Daesh.
Although Peshmerga forces are cooperating with the Iraqi Army alongside local Shiite militias in the operation to retake Mosul, the lack of clarity on the city’s fate after its liberation is proving to be an obstacle.
So far, gains against Daesh have been limited to towns and villages on the outskirts of Mosul. More than a million people remain trapped in the city, where Daesh has been using civilians as human shields to ward off attacks.
An international coalition of over 60 countries is also taking part in the operation, but the Iraqi central government in Baghdad has objected to Turkey’s participation.
Turkey’s role has largely remained limited to training local Kurdish and Sunni Arab fighters to take on Daesh at camps near the frontline.
Ankara says it sent its troops to Iraq after being invited to do so by the KRG and has refused to withdraw them, insisting that the Iraqi central government initially gave its permission.
Turkey, which has been on the receiving end of numerous Daesh attacks, is expecting a mass exodus of civilians from Mosul to its borders once fighting intensifies.
Due to Mosul being a predominantly Sunni city, Turkey is also concerned that the mainly Shiite make-up of the Iraqi government forces could escalate sectarian tensions in the region.
Analysts have blamed the increasingly polarising policies of the Shiite-dominated Iraqi central government for the rise of Daesh in the country’s Sunni-majority provinces two years ago. But as the terrorist group’s grip on the country weakens, there has yet been any major progress made on the Iraqi government’s side in tackling the issues that Daesh has used in its recruitment propaganda.