Mosul – The Kurdish Peshmerga have taken the lead in the battle for Mosul. On Monday, they pushed Islamic State (ISIS) militant out of nine villages and extended their control over the Erbil-Mosul road.
Monday’s operations were launched from the towns of Gwer and Khazir and coincide with a simultaneous advance by the Iraqi Army who pushed north from Qayarrah. More than 4,000 Peshmerga soldiers were involved in the operation, fighting alongside Iraqi security forces.
“In less than 24 hours, nine villages were cleared in an area measuring approximately 200 square kilometres. The [conquered] villages include Baskhira, Tarjala, Kharbat Sultan, Karbirli, Bazgirtan, Shaquli, Badana Bchuk, Badana Gawre and Shekh Amir,” the General Command of the Peshmerga Forces of Kurdistan Region said in a statement.
“Peshmerga forces also secured a significant stretch of the Erbil-Mosul road,” the Peshmerga General Command added. Peshmerga rocket teams also destroyed four ISIS car bombs.
At least six Peshmerga soldiers have been killed in the operation, including a captain who was killed by sniper fire. A Peshmerga officer on the front told ARA News that that their advance was primarily being hindered by improvised explosives and snipers. Peshmerga fighters also told ARA News that they expected to be delayed as they cleared warrens of tunnels.
While operations may be postponed to keep casualties low, the offensive will continue. Counter-IED teams have been deployed to clear the minefields, according to the Peshmerga command. Engineering teams have been tasked with demolishing the tunnels.
Iraqi Army – Peshmerga Cooperation
Kurdish President Masoud Barzani on Monday said that the cooperation between the Iraqi Army and Peshmerga has been good. “This is the first time Peshmerga and Iraqi Army have fought in the same area […] against ISIS terrorists,” he said.
In the past, the Kurdish Peshmerga in Makhmour assisted Iraqi security forces in the operation to take Qayarrah, but they did not take part in the fighting.
However, Peshmerga forces on the ground were not impressed with the fighting spirit of the Iraqi Army. “With [large] amounts of weapons and armored vehicles, they still have problems with advancing,” a Peshmerga soldier told ARA News.
Barzani, in a press conference on Monday, praised the Peshmerga’s tactical ability. “I don’t think any other army could do as well as the Peshmerga given their limited weapons and ammunition,” he said.
Building Coalition Momentum
The US-led coalition has expressed its continuing support for the Mosul operation. The top Coalition general in Iraq, US Major General Gary Volesky, highlighted the leading role played by the Iraqis in the operation.
“Mosul will be a hard fight, but the Iraqi security forces are ready. They’ve been waiting to liberate Mosul for two years, and today is the day,” said the commanding general of the 101st Airborne Division.
The 101st Airborne Division is the vanguard of the 19-nation coalition. They will assist local forces in ejecting ISIS from Mosul. On Monday, coalition warplanes struck 17 ISIS positions in support of Peshmerga’s advance.
“The Coalition is proud to support the Iraqis in the liberation of Mosul,” Maj Gen Volesky said. “The Iraqis have been building momentum from liberating Hit, Fallujah and Qayyarah. Mosul will be the next operation and we are confident they will succeed.”
Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg from the Mosul frontline | Source: ARA News