Forty-five kilometres west of Kirkuk city and within the Kurdish-run province of Kirkuk, Hawija is a Daesh pocket that lies between Baghdad and Mosul. Iraq's Hawija city has been in the hands of Daesh since 2014, yet the operation to retake it has been postponed several times, even as the battle for Mosul rages on.
Iraq's prime minister has given approval for the Kurdish Peshmerga forces to attack Daesh in the Sunni heartland of Hawija but the Peshmerga forces in Kirkuk city say they have been waiting for the Iraqi army to finish its operations in Mosul first.
"We, the Peshmerga Forces along with the Peshmerga Ministry, were awaiting orders from our superiors to attack," a Kirkuk regional deputy commander Hama Regir said. "However, Iraqi forces notified us that they were not prepared to free the Hawija region. Iraq changed their plans, headed for Mosul and commenced military operations over there."
A delaying tactic?
Critics say the Peshmerga have been delaying their attack for political reasons.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has been in dispute with Baghdad's central government over official control of Kirkuk
The KRG is accused of exploiting the security threat in areas like Hawija to gain the support of local people.
It's feared that Kirkuk could remain a battleground between the KRG and the Iraqi government even if Daesh is defeated in the region.
TRT World’s Rahul Radhakrishnan takes a closer look.