Erbil, Iraq – Peshmerga soldiers in Iraq’s Kurdish region have appealed for more help to hold off the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group.
Despite successes against it, Kurdish soldiers are struggling to counter ISIL’s use of asymmetric tactics and attempts to breach Peshmerga lines.
Fighters from the group, which controls large parts of Iraq and Syria, have used armoured vehicles laden with explosives and bulldozers to target Kurdish positions in northern Iraq.
The Peshmerga complain they do not have the necessary arms to repel ISIL despite the coalition’s air assaults and help from foreign fighters.
Alan, a British volunteer, told Al Jazeera that ISIL had access to more sophisticated weaponry and were better equipped.
“Daesh [ISIL] are armed to the teeth, and the Peshmerga are the ones now holding the line for the West … it’s now time that the West starts doing more than air support,” said Alan.
ISIL fighters are launching attacks on Kurdish forces, which are backed by Turkish military trainers, from their base in Mosul.
The city, Iraq’s second biggest, was seized by the fighters last summer after Iraqi government forces fled.
US-led coalition forces have been targeting ISIL with air strikes for more than a year now but the group continues to hold much of what it captured last year.
Despite complaints about supplies, Ahmed Anwar, a Peshmerga spokesperson, said the operation to free Mosul from ISIL was being delayed not because of military reasons but political ones.
“This is a political decision now. The Peshmerga and the coalition, with the support of the Iraqi military, already have a plan to liberate Mosul from Daesh,” he told Al Jazeera.
Military experts are divided on whether the ISIL attacks, which include up to 12 suicide bombings a day, represent desperation or evidence of a broader strategy.
Some experts fear ISIL is pulling back from major population centres to force the Peshmerga to defend a 1,000km frontline, making it easy to hit Kurdish forces in a slow battle of attrition.
The fight against the group has been hindered by a lack of coordination with the competing forces, with Iraqi government forces and their allied militias conducting a separate campaign to the one being carried out by the Peshmerga.