Subscribe

The American military on Wednesday will hand over security responsibilities of three northern Iraqi provinces to the Kurdish Regional Government, officials said Tuesday.

The nominal handover of responsibility will be for Duhok, Irbil and Sulaymaniyah provinces. As in previous similar handovers, U.S. and other foreign troops will remain in the region to assist Iraqi — or in this case, Kurdish — security forces.

After Wednesday, responsibility for seven of Iraq’s 18 provinces will have been handed back. The previous provinces were Najaf, Muthanna, Dhi Qar and Maysan.

Iraqi Kurdistan is an autonomous region bordering Turkey, Iran and Syria and has long been considered one of the safer regions of Iraq. The local security forces — the renowned Peshmerga — have a reputation as fierce fighters skilled at defending their region against outsiders.

The Kurdish Regional Government, based in Irbil, also has de facto control over three other Iraqi provinces: Diyala, Kirkuk and Ninevah. Those three provinces include a mix of several Iraqi ethnic and religious groups, and have been scene to episodes of fierce sectarian conflict. Later this year, Kirkuk is scheduled to hold a referendum on whether to officially join the Kurdish region.

In addition to American troops, a rotating contingent of more than 1,000 South Korean troops has been in the Kurdish area for several years.

While insurgent and terrorist attacks have been relatively infrequent, a May 9 attack in Irbil killed 15 people and wounded more than 100 others. The suicide truck bomb reportedly was made up of nearly one ton of explosives and struck in front of the Interior Ministry and security headquarters of the Kurdish Regional Government.

It was the first major terrorist attack in Irbil since June 2005. The attack was claimed by The Islamic State of Iraq, an al-Qaida-affiliated group. The Internet claim said the attack was in retaliation for the Kurds sending troops to Baghdad as part of the boosted security plan.

Several hundred Kurdish soldiers are participating in the “surge” alongside thousands of additional American and Iraqi troops.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up