Debate about the return of former army officers to service in Kirkuk25/07/2012 14:34
KIRKUK, July 24 (AKnews) – The opinions in Kirkuk province vary about the decision of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to return the officers and employees of the former army, where Kurds and Turkmen consider that the decision is not in Kirkuk's best interests, while Arabs see it as a step in the right direction.
In June PM Maliki agreed, after the visit of a delegation of parliamentarians and members of the Kirkuk provincial council and the Arab political council, to reinstate the police and army officers of the former army who left the service for security reasons.
After the fall of the former Iraqi regime by foreign forces in 2003, the US civil governor of Iraq Paul Bremer issued a decision to disband the ministries of defense and interior and security circles that were operating during the previous regime.
Iraqi military sources point out that the number of employees of the former army is estimated to be 450,000 soldiers, and only 50 percent of them either received pensions or returned to military service within the Iraqi security forces, while the fate of the others is unknown.
Some observers say one of the causes of insecurity is disbanding the former army after the fall of the Iraqi regime on April 2003.
A member of Kirkuk Provincial Council from the Kurdistan Democratic Party, Mohammed Kamal, said: "Those officers or affiliates were not supposed to be sacked from the beginning, but referred to retirement because the former Iraqi army officers were confined to one nationalism and single party, and this is not just.
“The Iraqi government must open new courses and train academic students or military colleges in Kirkuk to allow all ethnic groups in Iraq to participate in the current army. We want all the former officers to be referred into retirement and the appointment of new ones from all nationalities. Here lies the justice.”
On July 18 a committee from military band 12 in Kirkuk received groups of former Iraqi army officers to return them to service in the context of the decision issued by the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces.
The assistant of band commander brigadier general Iyad Mohammed said in a press statement that more than 200 officers have signed up their names to start receiving applications.
Member of the security committee in Kirkuk province Ali Mahdi, a Turkmen, said Turkmen and Kurds were deprived of appointments in the army since the eighties. He said that is why Arabs make up most of the returnees.
Mahdi called on the prime minister to reconsider the mechanism of return, which he described as a "breach of what has been agreed upon, that is the share of 32 percent for each nationality". Mahdi also criticized the central appointments that come from Baghdad and are from one nationality.
The head of Hawija District Council Sheikh Hussein Ali Saleh al-Jabbouri said: "During our recent visit to the Prime Minister in Baghdad an order was issued to return the sacked policemen and security forces of the former regime after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, where the officers that have the rank of lieutenant colonel will be able to return while the ones that have higher ranks will have the right to retire."
Jabbouri considered the return of the former officers as a good step to find balance and genuine reconciliation without partisanship, sectarianism and nationalism.
An officer in the former Iraqi army who declined to be named wished to return and expressed his willingness to serve the Iraqi army. He said: "How can I support my family and I do not have a job or pension or a monthly salary. I hope to go back to the service as soon as possible.”
Kirkuk province is one of the areas in which ownership is still disputed between the governments in Baghdad and Erbil. The province is 250km away from the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. Kirkuk is inhabited by Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and Christians.
By Abdullah al-Amiri