“Just keep driving until you get to the Daesh,” the Peshmerga checkpoint guard said. I was trying to get to the front line to follow along with the Kurdish offensive outside Kirkuk on September 11th. Can’t really blame him for his concise instructions. As our car approached the front, there were dozens of up-armored Humvees and pickup trucks. Peshmerga fighters stood around waiting for their orders, talking amongst each other and smoking cigarettes. As I got out of the car and began walking down the road, a group of Kurdish journalists looked at me and began waving their hands, saying, “No good, no good!”
The puffs of smoke from either IEDs or mortar rounds rose into the air in the distance.
Before even getting to the berm lines, I ran into a group of foreigners who had joined up with the 9th Brigade. They all wore MultiCamand balaclavas to conceal their identity. As I was soon to find out, one of them had already had his rifle confiscated because he was taking pot shots at the Pesh, mistaking them for ISIS.
Having left Erbil at 3:30 in the morning, it was now about 6 a.m. The sun had not fully risen and burned off the cloudy haze that engulfed the battlefield. The Peshmerga’s mission today was to liberate a series of villages on the outskirts of Kirkuk, pushing ISIS farther away from the city. What I had come upon was a fighting column, firing on a Daesh village called Zanghar with machine guns and tanks, while hundreds of vehicles were stacked up, ready to roll forward.
At this point I was able to get my eyes on some of the new weaponry that the Pesh had obtained from the Germans. G36 rifles aplenty, as well as Panzerfaust and Milan anti-tank systems. One Peshmerga soldier even carried a .50-caliber sniper rifle, very similar to the locally manufactured Zagros rifle that I saw female YPG snipers with in Syria months prior. The Pesh had taken their training to heart; they employed their anti-tank weapons appropriately. This was serious business, as one of the main Daesh tactics is to load captured up-armored Humvees with explosives and drive them right into the Pesh front lines before detonating.
This time, the Daesh were not putting up much of a fight, at least not with small arms fire. They abandoned Zanghar and by 6:40 a.m., the village had been liberated. Ground troops were swarming into the village. Just before I got there, an IED went off and killed a Peshmerga fighter. One of his teammates showed me the video on his cell phone of a bulldozer trying to recover his body, which had been cut in half by the blast.
This is part of a longer article available on SOFREP.com.