‘Post-IS politics important for overcoming sectarian divide’ says Kurdish intel-chief

Lahur Talabani, head of Iraqi Kurdish region’s intelligence and counter-terror agency Zanyari

The director of Kurdish Counter-Terrorism Group (CTG) Zanyari in Iraqi Kurdistan, Lahur Talabani, has highlighted the importance of political reconciliation between different religious sects following the defeat of the Islamic State (IS) group in the region.

Speaking to Reuters this week, Talabani said IS stronghold Mosul would be taken and the jihadist group defeated soon but that this could open the path for asymmetric war.

“Mosul will get taken … I think it is the asymmetric warfare that we need to be worried about,” Talabani said.

The security chief also added that there were signs IS planned to shelter in the northeastern Hamrin mountains, and use it as a base for attacks on several provinces including Kurdish province Diyala, which was attacked five times in January.

Commenting on the operation to take western Mosul, Talabani was cautious and warned of “more months of street-to-street and house-to-house fighting,” before IS could be defeated.

“We know some of these guys escaped. They are trying to send people out for the next phase, post-Mosul, to go into hiding and sleeper cells.

“You have to try and find them when they go underground, you have to try and flush out these sleeper cells. There will be unrest in this region for the next few years, definitely,” Talabani said.

The intelligence expert also warned political leaders of not repeating mistakes made in the past and called for discussions.

“… maybe not Daesh (IS), but another group will pop up under a different name, a different scale. We have to be really careful,” he said. “These next few years will be very difficult for us, politically.”

Although the political dynamics have mostly seen Sunnis clash with Shi’ites in the region, Talabani also raised the issue of tensions between the Shi’ite government in Baghdad and Kurdish forces.

“There is another threat out there that a lot of people are not seeing. We could clash with the (Shi’ite) militia in the future if there is no dialogue with Baghdad,” he said.