ISIS Makes New Gains in Northern Iraq, Nearing Irbil

Counteroffensive Continues, ISIS Retaking Territory

The Kurdish Peshmerga were making some gains against ISIS in late September and early October, backed by US warplanes. The gains began to reverse with an ISIS counteroffensive in mid-October.

At this point, ISIS seems to have recovered much of the territory it ceded in the early days of the US war, and is once again pushing deep into Kurdish territory, with fighting today focusing on a town just 60 km from the Kurdish capital of Irbil.

Kurdish offensives have focused north of Mosul, into the oil-rich area there, while ISIS seems to be simply hitting the Kurds as many places as possible at the same time, and taking the gains where they can.

Though analysts downplayed the chances of ISIS making a serious run at Irbil, even keeping pressure on the territory near the Kurdish capital will be both a psychological advantage for the Islamists, and a way to keep the Kurds on the defensive.

ISIS’ gains aren’t just centered in Iraqi Kurdistan, either, as the group continues to consolidate its territory in the Anbar Province, which it now dominates, and is also expanding deeper into Syria, with captures of gas fields in Homs Province.

Though Iraqi and Kurdish officials continue to talk up an eventual counter-counteroffensive against ISIS, particularly with an eye on expelling them from Mosul, these plans are all resting on things coming to fruition in late 2015, and for the time being ISIS seems to have all of the momentum.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of