Kurdish Peshmerga vehicles stationed south of Kirkuk. Photo: Rudaw.
KIRKUK — The Islamic State continues launching nightly offensives around Kirkuk, former Peshmerga Minister Sheikh Jafar Mustafa has told Rudaw.
Speaking at a military base near Kirkuk, Mustafa described the front lines around the oil-rich city as “stable,” but insisted “ISIS is still a threat.”
“There's not a single night that we are not under attack on some part of the line,” he said. “They still have a program for Kirkuk.”
Under Peshmerga control since June last year, Kirkuk has withstood numerous ISIS counterattacks and the Peshmerga are currently trying to liberate areas to the southeast and southwest of the city.
To the north of the city the Peshmerga have constructed a formidable line of defensive berms and fortified outposts, but the front lines are more fluid between Kirkuk and Daquq.
Sam Morris, a research fellow at Kurdish think tank Middle East Research Institute, said that even on stable areas of the front ISIS still staged frequent attacks. “It seems very static, it's very clear the Kurds are digging in, creating a new green line or border… but they are still coming into contact, they get VBIEDs (vehicle born improvised explosive devices) coming towards them and there's not enough time for them to call in an airstrike.”
Mustafa, who is still an advisor to current Peshmerga Minister Mustafa Sayid Qadir, said there was a desperate need for more heavy weaponry.
“There are still a lot of VBIEDs and there aren't enough MILAN rockets to reliably defend against them,” he said.
Germany has donated 1,000 of the remote-controlled anti-tank rockets to the Peshmerga, who have found them to be the most effective defense against suicide VBIEDs.
Similarly, Mustafa said ISIS fighters frequently laid mines at night which are designed to be difficult to defuse. “Men are killed trying and we have no special equipment for dealing with this—we need a mine clearance vehicle,” he said.
Mustafa, a Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) supporter, worried that PUK Peshmerga were not receiving their share of donated weapons and equipment. “We've heard that weapons have been received and they're sitting in a stockpile at the Ministry of Peshmerga,” he said. “We really need these weapons.”