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Kurds: Peshmerga target Mosul in advance on ISIS territory

"I am very happy to help liberate these villages today, because they are Kurds like us. After we liberate the village they can return and we will guard them too"

CNN reporting: Thousands of Kurdish Peshmerga fighters are continuing the offense to regain formerly Kurdish villages surrounding the ISIS-held town of Mosul, Kurdish officials say.

The 5,500 Peshmerga-led all-front attack, supported by coalition’s air support, was launched early Sunday to retake several villages near Khazir, east of Mosul.

This offensive is a fundament for a joint offensive by Kurdish forces and Iraqi troops to retake Mosul, Kurdish media says.

Kurdish media outlet Rudaw reported that the Peshmerga fighters, along the Zeravani Special Forces -- a Kurdish paramilitary outfit -- blasted their way across ISIS-held territory, retaking abandoned villages it says were once populated by Kurds.

"I am very happy to help liberate these villages today, because they are Kurds like us," First Lt. Hemin Rashid, a Zeravani Peshmerga fighter from Halabja told the media outlet.

"After we liberate the village they can return, and we will guard them too," he said.

Mortar fire and roadside bombs slowed the advance, Rudaw said.

"ISIS sees our forces but we cannot see them because they hide inside civilian homes and in tunnels," Zeravani spokesman Dilshad Mawlood said.

By Stefan Paraber for GIA

 

EXPERT OPINION

Joshua Tartakovsky

Why are the Kurds interested in Mosul? It is a multiethnic city with a Sunni majority, the second largest in Iraq, which lies outside Kurdistan.  The Caliphate was declared there by al-Baghdadi.

Aziz Ahmad in The Atlantic (No Kurds will Die to Restore Iraqi Unity, May 28) argued that the Peshmerga demand greater financial assistance and arms from the Iraqi government, and autonomy for Sunnis in the Mosul area. The battle for Mosul with US support is, therefore, the battle to fragment Iraq further and strip Baghdad of its power, while turning the once unified country into a series of mini-states within a federation.

In March, Iraqi forces made gains in villages to the east of Mosul, around Makhmour, but they failed to take over Mosul. The US has been pressuring the Iraqi army to join forces with Kurdish Peshmerga to retake Mosul. The US estimated that between 20,000-25,000 soldiers would be needed to retake Mosul while Stratfor estimated that as many as 40,000 soldiers would be needed. The key to retaking the city, which is a Sunni hotbed of extremists, would lie in cutting off its support lines. US has placed pressure on the Iraqi government also to allow Turkish soldiers to enter the war against ISIS while Iraq has been worried about Turkish intrusions. However, US has ruled out cooperating with the effective Shiite mobilization units although their fighters are Shiites of Iraq and not foreigners.

The recapture of Mosul where 9,000 ISIS fighters are estimated to be living would probably not begin before next year. And doing so would require US pressure on the Iraqi government to divulge power with the latter unlikely to concede easily unless faced by numerous terrorist attacks. For now, the Iraqi government has been withstanding pressure to divide the country. A key test is a coming battle in Fallujah and the success of the joint Shiite-Sunni effort.

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