Peshmerga holding firm, but for how long?

ISIL fighters apply unconventional tactics against the Kurdish forces, who suffer from lack of weapons and experience.

by

    On the hilly countryside outside Erbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous Iraq, attacks by ISIL fighters on Peshmerga positions are frequent.

    Fighters belonging to ISIL, acronym for the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant group, are using a mixture of conventional and unconventional tactics. Cars laden with explosives and armoured cars full of suicide bombers have been used against Peshmerga positions in the past few days.

    At times, the Kurdish forces have been forced to engage ISIL in house-to-house gun battles in villages they control or have just retaken.

    ISIL fighters seem to be engaging the Kurdish forces in a war of attrition. They want to wear them down, knowing they are thinly spread over the 1,000km-long frontline where the Peshmerga is currently fighting.

    ISIL fighters also know they have a greater arsenal than the Kurds, having looted bases and garrisons left behind by retreating Iraqi forces when the group came charging across the country last July and August.

    Kurdish media is full of reports about the need for more and newer weapons.

    Another pet peeve has been shortage of ammunition. Even the bravest Peshmerga soldiers have to cave in temporarily if they lack the means to fight.

    Lack of weaponry is not the Peshmerga's only problem. Many of their units are still inexperienced. Their older commanders fought Saddam Hussein's army in guerrilla warfare, but that combat experience does not necessarily prepare them for vehicle-mounted militia warfare or counterinsurgency. The poacher does not automatically know how to be a gamekeeper.

    Few senior Peshmerga commanders have experience with modern combined-arms offensive warfare, while the rank and file are typically much younger, lacking in combat experience and also the critical Arabic language skills needed to interact effectively with Sunni Arab communities.

    So far, though, the Peshmerga lines have held.

    The Kurds attribute that more to the bravery of their fighters than the means available to them.


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