Erbil, Asharq Al-Awsat—Kurdish Peshmerga forces are preparing to launch a broad offensive against militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Peshmerga forces will seek to recapture the northern city of Mosul—held by the Islamist group since August—as US and French military jets continue to target ISIS positions.
“On Friday, Peshmerga forces began an extended offensive on ISIS-controlled areas east of Mosul,” a Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) spokesman Saeed Mamozeini told Asharq Al-Awsat.
The step coincides with France beginning airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq. French Rafale aircraft carried out a first attack against an ISIS logistics centre in north-east Iraq on Friday.
“After heavy aerial bombardment by US jets and artillery shelling by Peshmerga forces on ISIS positions in Aswad, a large village east of Mosul, our forces advanced and managed to take control of the village following a battle that lasted four hours,” the official added.
Kurdish forces also opened fire to prevent a booby-trapped car attacking a Kurdish military checkpoint in the village of Hassan Sham near Mosul, the official said.
A Peshmerga officer, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief the media, said: “Our forces have arrived in the outskirts of Ba’ashiqa, eastern Mosul, and are waiting for the Kurdish political leadership’s orders to liberate these areas.”
ISIS militants are known for booby-trapping areas they have withdrawn from, seeking to slow down advancing troops. Kurdish Peshmerga forces are advancing cautiously but intend to recapture all territory taken by the Islamist militants without suffering heavy losses, the Kurdish military official said.
Peshmerga troops will enter once military engineering units clear these areas.
In comments to Asharq Al-Awsat, military expert Salah Fili said: “US airstrikes have had a significant impact on the battlefield. The more airstrikes on ISIS, the easier the advance on the ground.”
Foreign military support to Kurdistan has helped to tilt the balance of power on the ground in the Peshmerga’s favor, the expert added.