A picture taken on October 17, 2017 shows Iraqi government forces gesturing as the enter the Havana oil field, west of the multi-ethnic northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk. AFP / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE
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The speed with which Iraqi troops this week overwhelmed Kurdish forces in oil-rich Kirkuk, days after ousting Daesh (ISIS), marks a radical change in the balance of power, analysts say.But in a lightning operation this week, Baghdad's forces swept through almost all of the territory the Kurds had gained, including Kirkuk's key oil fields, virtually confining them to their original three provinces.The Kurds' precipitous withdrawal from thousands of square kilometers of cherished territory highlighted the newfound prowess of the Iraqi army – rearmed, retrained and battle-hardened during three years of fighting against Daesh.U.S.-led coalition Col. Ryan Dillon said federal government forces had proven their mettle in the nine-month battle for Iraq's second city Mosul that culminated in the militants' defeat in July.Those have included 43,900 federal troops, 20,700 federal police and 14,400 elite Counter-Terrorism Service members.The Kurdish peshmerga too have received Western training – some 22,800 of them – but they have not had the same level of battlefield experience as federal forces during the fightback against Daesh.
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