Kurdish Fighters Face Down ISIS Army With US Help
A soldier with the Kurdish peshmerga pauses at an outpost on the edges of the contested city of Kirkuk, Iraq, on July 3, 2014. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
August 11, 2014
| Security
| Middle East and North Africa
By Brian M. Downing

Since the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria stormed into Iraq and teamed up with some of the most vicious remnants of Saddam Hussein’s forces they have met with almost no opposition, with one exception: the Kurdish fighters.

Kurdish warriors have a long and well deserved reputation of fighting outside powers, from ancient Persian empires to Saddam Hussein. Lightly armed and trained by American and Israeli teams, the Kurdish fighters, called “peshmerga,” or “those who face death”, tied down tens of thousands of Iraqi troops that might otherwise have been deployed against U.S. forces in the Gulf wars and against Israeli forces in the 1967 and 1973 wars with Egypt and Syria.

In June, Kurdish troops rolled into territory abandoned by the Iraqi army in the face of the ISIS juggernaut and then took up positions to blunt the offensive by the jihadist terrorist army. Last week the Kurds lost several positions to the ISIS – a Salafi militant group with remarkable discipline and combat strength, which has benefited tremendously from the capture of equipment abandoned by fleeing Iraqi troops. Recent losses to the ISIS have called into question the mettle of peshmerga and whether or not many of them truly are willing to face death. The fall of a few towns in western Kurdistan is not as catastrophic as widely believed, and the Kurds are in the process of retaking lost ground – with the help of U.S. supplies and airstrikes. Nonetheless, the Kurdish military has problems.
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