US troops amass in N. Iraq in advance of anti-Daesh ops
U.S. troops have been deployed along the line between Iraq's northern Nineveh and Kirkuk provinces to support a planned Iraqi army campaign to retake a district of Kirkuk from the Daesh terrorist group, a Peshmerga source said Saturday.
"Large concentrations of U.S. troops have arrived in the Al-Qaraj area some 90 kilometers southeast of Mosul," Younis Kuran, a Peshmerga officer, told Anadolu Agency.
Armed with "smart" artillery batteries, the U.S. troops are there to support a planned Iraqi army campaign to recapture Kirkuk's Hawija district, according to Kuran.
"U.S. troops and vehicles have converged on the area and are now preparing to shell the targeted district," the Peshmerga officer said.
Last week, the Iraqi army began deploying troops to the Shirqat and Hawija districts -- respectively located in the Saladin and Kirkuk provinces -- with the aim of reestablishing control over northern Iraq, much of which was overrun by Daesh in mid-2014.
Central, northern and eastern Kirkuk, meanwhile, have remained under the control of Kurdish forces (Peshmerga and Asayish) since the Iraqi army fled before the terrorist group's 2014 advance.
Daesh has recently suffered a string of military defeats at the hands of Iraqi security forces and a U.S.-led coalition.
Late last month, the group was driven from the Tal Afar district in the northern Nineveh province. And in July, the city of Mosul -- once the capital of Daesh's self-proclaimed "caliphate" -- fell to the army after a nine-month campaign.