- The governmental agency and investigative arm was first established by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan’s intelligence service in 2002.
- Its primary function is investigating crimes relating to the internal and external security of the Kurdistan region.
- The agency officially yields the power to arrest holds jurisdiction over crimes in the area, including terrorism.
Belonging to the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraqi Kurdistan, Lexoman Parastin or Counter-Terrorism Group (CTG) serves to investigate crimes relating to the internal and external security of the autonomous region. Under the name CTG Kurdistan, the organization was first established in 2002 by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan’s (PUK) intelligence service with U.S. assistance against the threat of insurgent group, Ansar al-Islam in the city of Halabja. In cooperation with U.S. forces, CTG collects intelligence and uses it to help prevent terrorists in Iraq from destabilizing the Kurdistan region.
“In Kurdistan, we have a saying - the mountains are our best friend,” says Polad Talabani, commander of CTG who has been part of the organization since its inception. In the past, when the Kurds were under attack or being persecuted, they would flee into the mountains and ambush the enemy on the terrain. The specialized selection course for CTG takes place in the mountains of Kurdistan, which is a fitting environment to effectively evaluate recruits for this elite unit. Each selection witnesses applications from about 2,000 to 3,000 Peshmerga, mostly from Cobra units. Applicants range in age from 20 to 30 and around 60 to 70 percent don’t make it through the first week of land navigation up in the mountains. Helicopters remain on standby to evacuate recruits in case of medical emergencies, and sadly, there have also been fatalities on the selection course.
Sometimes referred to as “Dizha Terror” and acting under the command of the Kurdistan Regional Government, the agency officially has the power to arrest holds jurisdiction over a host of crimes in the area, including terrorism. CTG has gained permission from local authorities to operate in the whole of Iraq, not only in disputed regions, and the unit still considers itself an Iraqi force, not just a Kurdish one.
“They come to ask us for help, because our unit is specially trained to fight terrorism and the police and army are not well-equipped or trained for those kinds of operations,’ says security chief of CTG. “My money comes from Baghdad, directly from the Ministry of Defense. I am an Iraqi, it’s my duty to go and protect other Iraqis in those regions.”
The CTG considers disputed regions as buffer zones for the security of the autonomous Kurdistan region. “If you see the security situation in KRG and compare it to the rest of the country, there is a big difference.” The security chief says the financial support of terrorists has now been limited because shaykhs in Hawija are asking [the terrorists] why they are not able to carry out successful operations in Kurdistan.
The counter-terrorism head says there have been many operations carried out by his units in Kirkuk and Mosul over the past few weeks.
“We have this joint force now, which is made out of the Peshmerga, Iraqis and Americans in each of those disputed areas. They have set up these special operation rooms, where they collect intelligence and jointly go after these targets. They set up these joint checkpoints, which are [composed of] Kurds, Turkmen, Arabs, and everybody is involved. I think that’s going to have an effect.”
Despite the fact that al-Qaeda’s infrastructure was almost eliminated in Kirkuk in three months, its members are finding new ways to attempt attacks by sending assassination teams from Mosul to Kirkuk, thinking they won’t be recognized by authorities.
“Lots of those [arrested] cell leaders are Sunni Turkmen coming from Tel Afar or people wanted by the authorities in Mosul. They escape and regroup in Kirkuk to attack the police or civilians.” While Turkmen of Tel Afar, Iraq are involved in terrorism, the security chief says that the same is not true of the Turkmen in Kirkuk. “I don’t know the reason behind that.”