The Peshmerga will liberate some areas outside of the city and will support the Iraqi Army. They will enter the city only on the command of President Masoud Barzani. Photo: Farzin Hassan/Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – As the Kurdish Peshmerga move in to secure the northeast periphery of Mosul in an offensive that began hours ago, they are confident of success despite shortages of equipment to secure the area from ISIS.
“We cannot say we have enough supplies when we consider the fight and sacrifices the Peshmerga have made in this war. Even half of what we need has not been delivered,” Halgurd Hikmat, the media director for the Peshmerga, told Rudaw English.
Nevertheless Hikmat is still confident of the ability of the Peshmerga to succeed in this operation. “Of course,” he said, “because of the support from the coalition, the Peshmerga will be successful in their operation.”
“Peshmerga leaders believe they need more military aid, and the US’s July agreement to send $415 million to Kurdistan was recently further boosted by the UK government’s pledge to replenish 1 million British pounds’ worth of ammo,” Owen J. Daniels, the Assistant Director of the Middle East Peace and Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, told Rudaw English.
“It is unclear whether they will need more weapons for their role in the Mosul fight as they are set to remain outside the city,” he added, “but it is certain Peshmerga leaders will continue to lobby for international military support to bolster the security of the territory they control.”
Joel Wing, an Iraq analyst, also believes that the Peshmerga are sufficiently equipped to secure the northeastern periphery of Mosul, which is their current operational goal.
“The U.S. and Baghdad have tried to make deals with the Kurds to keep them outside of the Mosul itself. I think the Peshmerga are fully prepared to hold their part of the perimeter if that remains their major duty,” Wing reasoned.
At present, Hikmat said, “There is no order for the Peshmerga to enter the city.”
“This will be ultimately up to the commander-in-chief, President Masoud Barzani. If he tells us to enter the city we will act accordingly,” he added. “But for now there is no such order, however in the future there could be a change in circumstances.”
Hikmat explained that the Peshmerga are set to play two roles in this battle.
“The first role of the operation is to liberate some areas outside of the city in the Nineveh Plains, home to minorities like Christians and Shabaks. Our second role is to support the Iraqi Army,” he explained.
Since the war against ISIS began over two years ago the Peshmerga have had to defend a lengthy front against the militants with limited numbers of anti-tank missiles to prevent lethally dangerous heavily armored ISIS vehicle-borne improvised explosives (VBIEDs) attacks.
Furthermore, unlike the Iraqi Army, most armored vehicles in the Peshmerga arsenal, except for some Humvees and Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles supplied by the coalition, were looted from Saddam Hussein’s arsenal when his regime fell in 2003 and a smaller number taken from Iraqi Army units who infamously deserted after ISIS captured Mosul in June 2014. The only tanks the Peshmerga have are antiquated Saddam-era T-55 and T-62 tanks, a stark contrast to Iraq’s much newer US-supplied M1 Abrams tanks.
“The Peshmerga have what they need - with Iraqi counter terrorism service and Turkish/US artillery in support they have a lot of help,” Michael Knights, the Lafer Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy told Rudaw English.
US Marines have given Iraqi forces artillery cover on the Makhmour Front against ISIS earlier this year. Also in Bashiqa, northeast of Mosul, the Turks have brought in tanks and artillery to their training camp there, much to the consternation of Baghdad.
Rebaz Ibrahim, a Peshmerga Lieutenant on the Bashiqa front, told Rudaw English last May that, “they [the Turks at Bashiqa] are killing ISIS every day.”
Turkey has frequently struck back at ISIS attacks on their base in Bashiqa with their artillery and is able to give supporting fire to the Peshmerga and former Nineveh governor’s Sunni Nineveh Guard militia, formerly known as the Hashd al-Watani.
The last major Peshmerga offensive against ISIS took place in early August and saw them move as close as ten kilometers to Mosul in some areas, capturing deserted ISIS-occupied towns and villages on the Nineveh Plains. The last phase of their current offensive against ISIS will take them right to the northeast of the city limits.
Rudaw’s Ali Kurdistani contributed to this report.