On the front lines of the battlefield in Mosul

The peshmerga military forces struggle to maintain security in the Bashiqa area, the northern front of Mosul without even knowing the number of lost or wounded among their own.

Photo by: TRT WORLD
Photo by: TRT WORLD

The Peshmerga – the official army of an unofficial nation – have been trained by a number of international powers including the United States and Turkey at the invitation of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

At Bashiqa, on the northern front facing Mosul, a crowd of troops gathered to watch the fighting in Imam Raza, a village 15 kilometres outside Mosul.

Peshmerga commanders have bemoaned their lack of modern weapons, especially compared with the expensive, state of the art artillery that Daesh possess, much of it seized from Iraqi Army bases when it overtook Mosul in June 2014.

As tired and injured fighters shrugged down a dirt road leading toward the sound of machine gun fire, the next batch prepared to replace them at the front.

Officials have been hesitant to give clear numbers of killed and wounded among the Kurdish peshmerga's forces.

The steady stream of ambulances leaving Bashiqa, and the funerals that could be seen through the capital Erbil show that Daesh has inflicted losses in the peshmerga's forces.

As an autonomous region in Iraq, the peshmerga are responsible for security there, as the country's constitution states that Iraq's national army cannot set foot in the Kurdistan region.

Kurdish peshmerga forces are made up of a wide array of different groups, some aligned according to religious minority groups, such as the Assyrian Christian militia the “Ninawa Protection Units.” 

Some Kurdish groups are under the command of either the KDP or PUK, the Kurdistan region's two main rival political parties.

KRG and Peshmerga officials estimated that it could take at least two months to definitively win back Mosul from Daesh.

The first week of fighting saw stiff resistance, suicide attacks, and surprise offensives by Daesh in Kirkuk and Sinjar – areas they had control over.

The front lines of the battlefield in Mosul shift on a daily basis. 

Coalition fighters take up positions just a few kilometers behind the most forward line of fighting, and advance after new territory at the front has been cleared of any hostilities.

Where political agreements and disagreements marked the lead-up to the Mosul offensive, tensions between sectarian-aligned militias haven't boiled over yet. 

Less than a kilometer on the open Ninawa plains from an active skirmish in the village of Imam Raza, a soldier calls his wife on a cell phone.

The looming fear is that unseating Daesh's rule could lead to a free-for-all among groups with longstanding rivalries.