ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Peshmerga forces are gearing up for a fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) in areas they call historically Kurdish lands, following victories against the militants in areas northwest of Mosul.
“There is still more Kurdish land under ISIS,” said Seyid Hejar, deputy commander of the special Zeravani forces. “Those areas are majority Kurdish; many Kurds live there and the areas are strategically important to us.”
On a large map on the wall of the operations room, Seyid Hejar pointed his finger at a dozen Kurdish and some Christian towns that he said should be retaken from ISIS.
Kurdish military leaders say that ISIS should be pushed back as far as possible on the Nineveh plains, because their proximity poses a serious threat to both the Kurds and Christians, two historical inhabitants in the region.
“This area is multicultural and we as Peshmerga are ready to sacrifice with our lives to protect every inch of this land,” Sayid Shukur, commander of the 4th Zeravani force told Rudaw on a hilltop recently reclaimed from ISIS.
In a major operation last month, the Peshmerga liberated around 2,500 square kilometers from ISIS near the Syrian border, down to the Gwer-Makhmour region.
The area falls within former disputed territories that Baghdad hoped to resolve through the so-called constitutional Article 140.
The Peshmerga forces, however, plan for half a dozen villages still held by ISIS near Qaraj.
On Wednesday, they captured two strategic villages -- Sultan Abdullah and Tal Shaiir -- from ISIS near Makhmour, enabling the Kurds to link two of their frontlines previously separated by ISIS.
Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani visited the Peshmerga frontlines on the first day of the New Year, to applaud them for their recent victories against the extremist group.
Speaking to reporters, Barzani said that the Kurdish government would bring public services to the areas liberated from ISIS to help their residents return to their homes and start a new life.