By The Canadian Press on October 12, 2017.
OTTAWA – A Canadian military officer attached to the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq says efforts to drive the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant from the country have gone faster than expected – a sign, he says, that the groups’s back has been broken.
Brig.-Gen. Craig Aitchison, who is helping oversee coalition ground operations in Iraq, says commanders have been surprised by the lack of resistance from ISIL in recent months.
That includes in Hawija, where Canadian special forces recently helped local forces eliminate what officials have described as the extremist group’s last major stronghold.
Yet while ISIL is on its last legs, there are mounting tensions between the central government in Baghdad and Iraq’s northern Kurdish region, whose people voted last month for independence.
Baghdad opposed the referendum and has since banned international flights into the Kurdish region and threatened to fight the Kurds for control of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and other disputed land.
Aitchison says the coalition is monitoring the situation, and that it won’t take sides if fighting erupts between Kurdish and Iraqi forces – though he obviously hopes things don’t get to that point.
For the time being, he says, the standoff has not affected the fight against ISIL, as Iraqi and Kurdish forces continue to work together against the extremist group.
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