Despite a long-standing territorial dispute, Baghdad and Iraq’s Kurds are taking steps to work together to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State group.

For the first time since the defeat of Islamic State, federal Iraqi forces and Kurdish peshmerga are coordinating to close security gaps along a disputed zone in northern Iraq, as part of their ongoing fight against the militants.

As a backhoe dug up the ground to build trenches, Iraqi soldiers scanned the vast farming tracts for militants; not far away, their Kurdish counterparts did the same.

The scene earlier this month in the small northern Iraqi farming village of Lheiban was a rare instance of coordination between the federal government and the semi-autonomous Kurdish region. The two sides were fortifying a joint position aimed at defending the village against attacks by the Islamic State group.

Despite a long-standing territorial dispute, Baghdad and Iraq’s Kurds are taking steps to work together to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State group.

Whether the fragile security partnership can hold is the big test in the next chapter of Iraq’s war with IS. Both sides say they need the Americans to help keep it together — and they say that is one reason why the U.S. military presence in Iraq is not going away even as its combat mission officially ends on Dec. 31.

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