Ian Bach

Viewing conflicts through the eye of Counterinsurgency COIN – Since 2007

In northern Iraq, casualties as Kurds push back Islamic State (+video)

Backed by US-led airstrikes, Kurdish fighters are pushing south of the Iraqi city of Kirkuk into territory held by the self-proclaimed Islamic State, underscoring new momentum in the fight.
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Bulldozers with steel plates welded over their cockpits to thwart snipers are digging earth berms and trenches here, creating the new front lines of northern Iraq.

Kurdish peshmerga units began a week ago pushing beyond a line 20 miles southwest of the oil city of Kirkuk, which Kurds have held since last summer when Sunni militants swept into Iraq from Syria. The Kurdish fighters’ aim is to squeeze the self-styled Islamic State between them and a parallel offensive by the Iraqi Army and allied Shiite militia to the south that has encircled Tikrit.

The multi-pronged fight is a major test for reconstituted Iraqi forces. When IS jihadists seized the northern city of Mosul last year, entire Iraqi Army divisions disintegrated. Today, the momentum appears to have shifted: US officials estimate that IS today has lost 25 percent of the territory—nearly 5,000 square miles—it held at its peak last August, when it declared an Islamic caliphate.

Recommended: How much do you know about US-Iraq relations? Take our quiz.

Kurdish forces, aided by US-led airstrikes, say they are making far faster progress than they expected – up to 15 miles in some places – across the flat ground carpeted with spring green. They’ve been capturing villages laced with booby-traps and car bombs.

The Kurds want to push IS out of artillery range of oil and gas installations here, and squeeze them between Tikrit and Kirkuk. Using binoculars and targeting scopes from the top of the freshly dug earth berms, Kurdish fighters watch the nearby village of Tal al-Ward. Wounded peshmerga from the fight—some of them screaming—are driven quickly by in the back of trucks.

About 50 wounded are brought to Kirkuk hospital by dusk on this day alone, and an unspecified number of dead. One Humveelimps by, bulletproof windows impacted by rifle shots, tires shredded by a roadside bomb. Another Humvee is towed, its tire rubber flapping uselessly in the dirt. The sound of US warplanes circling high above lasts for hours.

“If the airplanes don’t support us, we can’t advance,” says one Kurdish fighter, sharing a common refrain. “They are retreating…we are weakening them,” says Lt. Col. Bakr Ahmad, who juggles a radio and mobile phone, and is tasked with calling in coalition airstrikes. “We don’t forget the role of the alliance—those planes make a big difference,” he says. “When I need them I ask and they do it.”

From a state to a terror group

Last summer Kurdish fighters set up defensive lines southwest of the strategic oil town of Kirkuk, near the Lower Zab canal. Eight months ago “[IS] were attacking us, now we are attacking them,” Fuad Hussein, chief of staff to the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, told a forum held last week in northern city of Sulaymaniyah. “If the strategy is to weaken them, they are weaker. If the strategy is to turn them from a state to [only] a terrorist organization, we are on the path.”

Yet without defeating IS in Syria, warns Mr. Hussein, the jihadis will keep coming back to Iraq. Already some 20,000 foreign fighters from 90 different countries have joined IS in Syria and Iraq, “many of them” seeking suicide operations, said Brett McGurk, the US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iran and Iraq, speaking at the same forum. The map of anti-IS forces advances show “how the tide is slowly starting to turn.”

Kurdish forces have a “very solid defense line” and US-led airstrikes give “great confidence” to the peshmerga as they advance, agrees Michael Knights of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Yet IS remains potent, despite an estimated death toll from US-led airstrikes of 6,000, as of a few months ago. Within a week recently the group launched 10 major attacks with 100 to 200 fighters each. Each attack formation was decimated by airstrikes and ground forces. “The refreshment of this movement is higher than anyone thinks, and as a result there is no military solution,” warns Mr. Knights.

Secret tunnels and suicide attacks

IS has a few tricks up its military sleeve. Several bodies still rot amid the rubble of Dur al-Kahraba village, which Kurds took control of last week. Three houses down from a small mosque the Kurds found a surprise: an 8-by-8-foot hole dug in the living room of a house that leads into a 150-yard-tunnel that nearly reaches Kurdish trenches. All other rooms were full of dirt, in a bid to hide the excavation from view.

“This is IS, this is how they were thinking,” says Shukur Abbas, who in charge of the bulldozers building trenches and flattening recaptured villages.

At night in Kirkuk at the hospital, the emergency entrance is a constant hive of activity, as casualties are driven in and relatives arrive, often in tears.

Fadhil “Hama Jaff” was wounded in the blast of a suicide car bomb, as his Kurdish unit—buoyed by days of swift progress—attacked an IS-controlled village that morning. “They were fighting hard,” says Mr. Fadhil, speaking from his hospital bed. “All at once they stopped shooting at us, we thought they were retreating. We advanced and they sent an SUV—we were surprised.”

Another Kurdish fighter, Bakhtiar Jabar, jumped out of the Humvee and fired his heavy machine gun at the oncoming vehicle, but it was armored and the bullets had no effect.

Mr. Jabar was struck with shrapnel in his side, and that night in the intensive care ward said repeatedly: “I am in pain. I am in pain.” Such events are no surprise to commander Rasul. “Scientifically, I haven’t seen anything special about their [IS] fighting ability,” he says. “They are here only for suicide.”

Kurdish forces retake Kirkuk villages after eight-months of IS control
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About Ian Bach

Independent Online Terrorist Hunter I teach people how to hunt down and shut down the Bad guys web sites. I also teach about the various countries and cultures. Like most cases it is a small group of bsd eggs that in this case call themselves Muslims but in actual fact they are more like how KKK call themselves ",True Christisians". But in both cases / groups they preach a perverted and twisted view a religion. In the case of ISIS, all Qaeda, al Nusra, and the rest of the terrorists who claim to be true Muslims most of these groups follow the Wahhabi teachings. They are almost all Sunni and their goal is global domination. Yet they must be very bad at math and history. Since most Muslims prefer a separation of church and state and also mist are against Shari's Law. Esp the twisted and overly exaggerated form of Sharia Law that the Wahhabi and other bad guys use. I have studied terrorism, insurgencies, and the best tried and proven methods that work to fight terrorism. My Blogs have many links and articles that can show you who are the best and most knowledgeable people in the fields or counterinsurgency and counter terrorism. When I find great practitioner's I always listen to them to find out who they learned from and who they respect and admire. Thus I am always learning new stuff from the best and most successful in their fields of knoeledge. I strive to be an open and ethical source of information, I have met many awesome, kind, caring, and loving wonderful people many who I am close friends with now from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, Iran, and many from S.E. Asia which also has a high percent of their populations that are Muslim.We must always strive to be aware people are not any one particular religion via that's what they chose to be, instead most people are a particular religion because that's what their parents and/or county is. I was raised Catholic but because I became Interested in magic ,(illusion - smoke n mirrors) and science which lead me to study many religions, and I would call myself an atheist. Yet sometimes when I lose my keys ZI find myself praying "Hail Marys" and a few "Our Fathers" which most always aides me in finding my keys. My belief is that if I just frantically look around for my krys, good luck it takes me for ever. But by saying these prayers it is like s sort of meditation and my mind becomes more calm, which is why it helps my find my keys.

2 comments on “In northern Iraq, casualties as Kurds push back Islamic State (+video)

  1. Ian Bach
    March 18, 2015

    Reblogged this on How to Fight ISIS Online.

    Like

  2. lassy
    March 18, 2015

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This entry was posted on March 18, 2015 by in Iraq, kurdish and tagged , , , , , , , .
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