Coalition forces killed 15 senior and mid-level Islamic State leaders and commanders, including two external operations planners, in a series of airstrikes that have taken place in eastern Syria and Western Iraq over the past two months.
Abdul Hakim al Tatari, a Russian Tatar member of the former Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, joined the Islamic State’s Wilayat Khurasan before migrating to Syria. He was later killed in the battles around Baiji, Iraq, just days after arriving to Islamic State-held territory.
The Syrian military has taken full control of Deir Ezzour, while Iraqi troops and Iranian supported militias ejected the Islamic State from Al Qaim.
Today’s clashes in Ninewa and Erbil are just the latest in a recent series between Iraqi forces, Iranian-backed Shia militias, and Kurdish Peshmerga forces over disputed areas in northern Iraq.
CJTF-OIR made the statement despite the fact that it was abundantly obvious that the Iraqi government sought to seize Kirkuk from the Kurdish Peshmerga, and had signaled its intentions days before.
The Iraqi government quickly capitalized on its victory against the Islamic State in the adjacent city of Hawija and turned its energy on the secessionist Kurds in Kirkuk. The rapid offensive exposes deep fault lines in the anti-Islamic State coalition and within Kurdish politics.
Islamic State forces still control a small pocket of villages to the north and east of the town, but are now surrounded.
As tensions mount between the Iraqi federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government, several Iranian-backed group have deployed more troops to contested areas near Kirkuk and Tuz Khurmatu. As both sides remain steadfast in their claims to the oil rich province, tensions continue to mount and the risk of military escalation rises.