Did the US have forewarning of ISIL’s Kirkuk counterattack and yet still did nothing to prevent it?

by omouggos

Local forces defend Kirkuk against an ISIL attack (image from the theguardian.com)

Local forces defend Kirkuk against an ISIL attack (image from the theguardian.com)

The battle of Mosul is currently underway, with a hodgepodge of groups, including Kurdish, Iraqi, Iranian backed Shiite militias, Turkish, Assyrian Christian, Yazidi and American forces attempting to wrest the city from the hands of ISIL. The battle has been tough thus far as the besiegers have been unable to penetrate ISIL’s outer ring of defenses.”1 Such difficulties are not surprising as Mosul is ISIL’s Iraqi capital and the most populous city under it control, so it is expected that they will not relinquish the city without stiff resistance.

Another problem for the Mosul offensive is that 150 kilometers to the southeast, ISIL has launched a counterattack on the important oil city of Kirkuk. On October 21 at least 100 ISIL fighters, some of which were suicide bombers, entered Kirkuk, which was poorly defended as many local forces were dispatched to participate in the battle of Mosul, and started wreaking mayhem.2 After three day fighting appears to be ongoing in the city, with ISIL snipers still on the prowl.

One may wonder based on prior experience–ISIL commonly employs diversionary attacks–and US intelligence capabilities (i.e. spy satellites, drones, etc.) that the Kirkuk counterattack should have been foreseen and possibly prevented or at the least dealt with more adequately. Interestingly it is being reported that the US had forewarning of the attack but took little action to counter it.


Turkish news outlet Yeni Safak has published an article claiming that on October 6 Iraqi intelligence presented the Peshmerga (a Kurdish militia battling against ISIL) with a report warning of a security vulnerability to Kirkuk, i.e. that ISIL was planning to attack.”3 Then on October 9 the Peshmerga had a meeting with US military personnel to discuss the report and to ask for additional security measures to protect the city. Apparently the US officials were not overly concerned, arguing “Daesh [ISIL] would use all [its] power to protect Mosul rather [than] attacking Kirkuk.” On October 12 Iraqi intelligence produced another report with the same findings as the first, but once again the warning was dismissed.

I am not sure what to make of this story, as to some degree I am rather skeptical of the veracity of Yeni Safak’s reporting in general as it appears to me to be a pro-Erdoğan propaganda outlet. It would not surprise me at all that this story is fabricated or highly distorted in an attempt to paint the US in bad light. After all Ibrahim Karagul who is a columnist for Yeni Safak, frequently propounds the notion that the US is using ISIL, the PKK and PYD to destabilize and overthrow Turkey. However, it may be possible that there was an Iraqi intelligence report that forewarned of ISIL attack on Kirkuk and that the US did nothing to stop it.

If this is the case, then why did the US military not take greater action to beef up security in Kirkuk? It could very well be that the US military honestly did not believe that ISIL would divert forces from Mosul to attack Kirkuk, and that every available Peshmerga and Iraqi military personnel was needed to participate in the battle of Mosul. Furthermore it does make sense that the US does want ISIL evicted from Mosul, for no other reason than to massage Obama’s ego so that he can claim a great victory against ISIL before he leaves office and silence his critics. So while it may be possible that the US has, on other occassions, provided indirect support to ISIL, as they are an effective proxy force against Assad and Iran, in this particular instance it seems unlikely that the US wants to prolong or jeopardize the siege of Mosul by ‘allowing’ ISIL to attack Kirkuk. As such it seems like poor judgment is the most likely explanation for this scenario.

With that being said however, the possibility that the US has once again acted in a manner beneficial to ISIL, will provide more fuel to the belief of many that the US is indeed colluding with, and even running, ISIL.

O Mouggos


[1] http://www.debka.com/newsupdatepopup/18612/ISIS-sidetracks-Mosul-operation-to-fronts-around-the-city

[2] http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/10/iraq-security-forces-fight-isil-gunmen-kirkuk-161022065428428.html , http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/kirkuk-under-threat-of-isil-sharpshooters.aspx?pageID=238&nID=105270&NewsCatID=352 , http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-iraq-kirkuk-idUSKCN12O1VU

[3] http://www.yenisafak.com/en/world/us-army-allowed-daesh-to-enter-kirkuk-report-2552833