MP unveils Baghdad-Ankara agreement limiting al-Hashed al-Shaabi combat role

Elements of al-Hashed al-Sha'bi militia. Archival photo.
Elements of al-Hashed al-Sha’bi militia. Archival photo.

Baghdad – ( An Iraqi MP has disclosed an agreement between the governments in Baghdad and Ankara limiting the role of al-Hashed al-Shaabi paramilitary forces in the liberation of the Nineveh town of Tal Afar.

Nineveh MP Ahmed Madloul al-Jarba said Sunday that the US-sponsored agreement assigns the liberation of Tal Afar to the Iraqi army, limiting the role of al-Hashed al-Shaabi to retaking and besieging the town’s military airport.

“The issue of Tal Afar is possibly the most sensitive when it comes to the liberation of Nineveh,” Jarba said, praising Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s ability to manage that issue “with wisdom and without stirring any problem”.

Tal Afar has been a concern for Turkey which had said it feared that Shia paramilitary forces engaged in combat could carry out retaliatory measures against Sunni Turkmen residents of the town. Turkey’s deployment of troops in Nineveh has also triggered diplomatic war of words with Iraq. While Ankara maintains its presence is merely to train locals on combating ISIS, Baghdad says the deployment and Ankara’s concerns over Tal Afar were a pretext for intervention into the country’s affairs.

On Saturday, al-Hashed al-Shaabi media said the militia successfully liberated the strategic military airport of Tal Afar, proceeding to chase fleeing ISIS militants towards the town. Al-Hashed said the recapture of the airport represented a major step since it cuts a major supply line for ISIS from Syria’s town of Raqqa, an ISIS stronghold.

On Sunday, Turkish presidency spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin urged the Iraqi government to honour pledges it had made through the United States to keep al-Hashed al-Shaabi away from the Tal Afar battles. Jarba said the statement was a clear reference to the agreement. “We expect that the liberation of Tal Afar will be entrusted to the Iraqi army alone, especially with federal police and anti-terrorism teams being busy with (battles) at the western and eastern sections”.

News have been conflicting over al-Hashed al-Sha’bi’s future combat movements after the recapture of the airport. The militia’s media website said Sunday the troops began to set up barricades around the town preparing to storm it.

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