Beaming Kurdish fighters were dropped by the busload on the outskirts of Kirkuk on Thursday, eager to defend a city they say is on its way to becoming part of their autonomous region after the Iraqi army left.

“The Iraqi army didn’t argue, they didn’t fight. They left behind their weapons. They didn’t even take their uniforms,” said Tayeb Younis, a young member of the peshmerga, the autonomous Kurdish region’s forces. “We are thrilled – this is a first step to [the city] becoming part of the Kurdish Regional Government.”

The sudden withdrawal of the central government’s army from Kirkuk is another sign of how quickly Iraq could break up into separate sectarian territories of Shia, Sunni Arabs and Kurds. Since militants of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (known as Isis) seized Mosul on Tuesday, they have advanced to take control of an area that amounts to more than 10 per cent of the country. […]