After losing large swaths of territory to al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), including the major cities of Mosul and Tikrit, Iraqi troops were pouring out of Kirkuk in anticipation of another siege.
Kirkuk indeed fell, but AQI didn’t even get a chance to take it, as the Peshmerga fighters loyal to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) marched in and seized the city instead.
The Peshmerga reports full control of the city now, noting “no Iraq army remains in Kirkuk,” and they seem to be gearing up for a fight with AQI over the oil-rich city.
Which could be a whole new problem of its own for the central government, since the KRG has been trying to annex Kirkuk off and on for five years. At times it seemed they might go to war with Baghdad over the city.
While the Kurds will serve as more of a bulwark against AQI advancement than Iraq’s feckless military was liable to (especially since they seem to have fled long before AQI got close), the militants are still likely to continue advancing toward Kirkuk and Baghdad, with an eye toward extending their momentum.