CJTF-OIR: Kirkuk a ‘misunderstanding’ attributed to ‘limited visibility conditions’


As the Iraqi military and its Iranian-backed allies in the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) attacked the northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), the international coalition assembled to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, attempted to whitewash the operation by claiming it was a misunderstanding partially attributed to darkness. CJTF-OIR made the statement despite the fact it was abundantly obvious that the Iraqi government sought to seize Kirkuk from the Kurdish Peshmerga, and had signaled its intentions days beforehand.

In a statement released by CJTF-OIR on Oct. 16, as Iraqi forces moved against the Peshmerga south and southwest of Kirkuk, the US-dominated coalition command reported that Iraqi forces had not attacked, but instead were conducting “coordinated movements” of vehicles in the area. Then, CJTF-OIR contradicted itself and noted “a limited exchange of fire” due to a “misunderstanding” caused by “limited visibility conditions.” Astonishingly, CJTF-OIR then claimed Iraqi and Kurdish forces “attempted to link up.”

Below is an excerpt from CJTF-OIR’s statement:

The Coalition is monitoring movements of military vehicles and personnel in the vicinity of Kirkuk. These movements of military vehicles, so far, have been coordinated movements, not attacks.

Coalition forces and advisors are not supporting Government of Iraq or Kurdistan Regional Government activities near Kirkuk, but are aware of reports of a limited exchange of fire during predawn hours of darkness Oct. 16. We believe the engagement this morning was a misunderstanding and not deliberate as two elements attempted to link up under limited visibility conditions.

CJTF-OIR made these surprising statements as both the Kurdistan Regional Government and the Iraqi government were reporting on clashes in and around Kirkuk, and numerous videos were circulating showing the fighting outside the city.

Sadly, this is not a new phenomena when it comes from US military officials based in Iraq. US commanders have presented the absolute best case scenario in its fight against the Islamic State as well its assessment of the PMF as a legitimate Iraqi security force that is not beholden to Iran. For instance, in May 2015, as Ramadi fell to the Islamic State, General Martin Dempsey, then the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top military leader in the country, said that Iraqi forces weren’t driven out of Ramadi, they drove out on their own. And that a sandstorm attributed to the Iraqi military’s defeat in Anbar’s provincial capital (Dempsey never did explain why the Islamic State could effectively attack during a sandstorm while Iraqi troops failed to defend their positions).

US military officers and officials have also provided cover for the PMF, which is primarily comprised of militias controlled or influenced by Iran. Since Iraq made the PMF an official security apparatus, and US commanders were insistent on defeating the Islamic State at all costs, even at the expense of throwing in their lot with militias that remain hostile to America and are responsible for killing hundreds if not thousands of Americans, US generals provided cover for the PMF, and even supported their operations with air strikes.

In May 2015, General (retired) John Allen, who at the time was the Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition To Counter the Islamic State, told us that “the fact that militias are involved and tribes are involved in this part of the campaign, this part of the implementation of supporting Iraq ultimately to recover the country, should not alarm us.”

Brett McGurk, the current Special Presidential Envoy for Global Coalition to Defeat the Islamic State, and other US officials have also continuously legitimized and provided cover for the PMF and lauded their role in operations against the Islamic State.

And yet today, these same militias are taking direction from Iran and have attacked America’s only remaining true and reliable, if imperfect, ally inside Iraq: the Kurdistan Regional Government. Perhaps that should alarm us.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.

Tags: , ,


  • Brian L. says:

    This is really pathetic. We made fun of Susan Rice for her story, “Oh, this well-coordinated attack on the Benghazi Consulate was just a peaceful demonstration against a hateful internet video”. How is this CJTF-OIR whitewash any better?

  • TW says:

    This was coming and all of us could see this. The Iraqis lead by Iran, with American Weapons would attack the Peshmerga due to the long hatred that the Iranians have for the Peshmerga. The other is the move that Turkey has made into Syria, which has effectively split the Peshmerga in half in Syria.

  • irebukeu says:

    No air support = no chance in open battle. No port = no future. They may yet get something started in Syria. I would like to see it. Probably best to work with Assad and Vladimir. Skip Erdogan,the Turks seem a bit angry.

  • john says:

    Yet again, we set the Kurds up for failure. This will be the third time since the Gulf War. Notice a trend, here? We say so-and-so is our enemy, then we sort of fight them while supporting them, and eventually end up helping them on their quest to dominion at the expense of our allies. Yep, that seems to be the manifestation of American Power we all want to be associated with. Funniest of all is that we keep doing this regardless of which party is in power at the time.

  • irebukeu says:

    I looked for and did not find the quote you mention. Can you provide more information on this quoted statement. Perhaps you meant to paraphrase. It might be OK, like you say, if all that happened is that we made fun of her. The woman personally became the target of a political smear job for someone else to have a political gain. Looking at her exact words and the events, she didn’t really do anything worth singling her out by name over. It was the position of the Obama administration that should have been blamed. She even went out there saying that the FBI was working on it (“Well, Jake, first of all, it’s important to know that there’s an FBI investigation that has begun and will take some time to be completed. That will tell us with certainty what transpired. and would have the final say in what really happened”). She said this-“Our current best assessment, based on the information that we have at present, is that, in fact, what this began as, it was a spontaneous – not a premeditated – response to what had transpired in Cairo,”
    Look at what she said. She tells us four times what she is saying is not really to be fully counted on.
    1. That the FBI is figuring it out (therefore-not her).
    2. “Our current”, meaning that it will change (so isn’t accurate). She is red flagging this.
    3. “Best” meaning there are multiple assessments and they are going with the one she is about to talk about. She red flagged it again.
    4.” Based on the information that we have at present,” meaning this could all change.
    She told us four times in three sentences. Not bad. The part she said that wasn’t accurate in the end, that there was some type of silly protest right before the attack was meaningless (If there had been a protest there would not have been video games playing when the attack began-they would have been more prepared and actually might have put up a fight with weapons). Looting, a protest of a sort, began right after the attack on the consulate if you want to look for protests to validate her statement or explain possible confusion. I don’t see much in her statements to fault her on. I may not agree with most of the policies she advocates but I do see her as a patriot. The intervention that brought about Benghazi is where I find fault with her, Powers, Obama and Clinton and on and on.
    Now for today’s Benghazi.
    Two weeks after the death of an American soldier and three Green Berets in Niger and the government still wont tell us the horrible news they knew from the start. They are looking for some way to break the news while they leave everyone in the dark.
    Who’s career should get torn up now? All the things that were said about Benghazi can be said about this. Any political claim anyone wants to make can be made but should not be. It has already turned into a political farce, so yeah its Benghazi-2
    Things happen in war. Reverses happen, outposts get overrun, units retreat, get caught by surprise. Things happen given enough time. Troops get ambushed. Soldiers get taken captive. It happened in Iraq to the 101st and it looks like it is what happened in Niger. Now the government lies by omission trying to avoid saying what appears obvious. I rode Occam’s razor to this conclusion on day two with just a few facts. Time will tell the actual events.
    Resolute support has made a complete joke of its press releases and now in In Iraq too we see the return of Baghdad Bobby. This time he is a writer for (ir)resolute support, not a speaker.
    Great! Who are we, what have we become? Are we noticing a trend? Is ‘truthiness’ heading for Websters? If so, we are lost in a dark cave and DONE as a great nation others can look to or ever depend on.
    Whatever anyone’s position is on these interventions, we should keep pressing for the truth, so that we all may use the same information and agree on facts and have civil and productive conversations about the increasingly narrow paths forward or backwards.
    Like cavers in a dark cave staying to one wall to map the entire system, if we keep moving forward always trying to keep our right shoulder pressed up against the truth, no matter how dark it gets or for how long, only moving from it to find more truth, we can always find our way back when unsure by turning around and using our left shoulder and the truth again to find our way back .
    Without the truth we are lost and left in the dark stumbling, fighting with our own compatriots while our allies shake their heads and enemies laugh. People who lie love darkness (holding the truth as their secret flashlight) as it takes people a long time to crawl out of darkness and man, how they love to see people crawl!
    I’m afraid that the new Benghazi will be dominating Twitter and thus the headlines as another slaughter in Kurdistan occurs and is ignored.
    If ‘misunderstanding’ is what they are saying expect a “no comment” soon.

  • Mike Morgan says:

    Five talk shows had Ms. Rice claiming it was a video.

    The rest of your fluff shows you don’t know anything about the military nor give a damn about the families of the fallen. Why does releasing publicly releasing details of a particular soldier’s death help you? Why do you want to make his wife suffer more?

    You want to blare out “new Benghazi” but the facts don’t fit. Those soldiers were going in harm’s way, not civilians defending a supposedly safe American Consulate. Neither the President nor the Secretary of State denied requests for additional security or backup forces.

    And releasing military secrets won’t make you like Trump more; but it could get more Americans killed. Is that your intention?

    Maybe you should see someone about your condition. You sound like you’re going to hurt yourself.


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram