U.S. airstrikes helped, but Kurds from Syria turned tide against #ISIS

McClatchy reports: Victory, they say, has many fathers, and as Kurdish peshmerga militia pushed Islamic State forces from a string of towns near Irbil Sunday and Monday, it was easy to cite two: accurate airstrikes by U.S. aircraft that eliminated artillery positions and convoys and timely deliveries of light arms and ammunition from the CIA.

But a third may have been just as important, though less publicized: the addition of hundreds of fighters from a Turkish group designated by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization.

Visits to front-line positions Monday made it clear that an influx of fighters with links to the Kurdish Workers Party, known by its Kurdish initials PKK, had played a major role in driving the Islamic State from key areas within a 30-minute drive of Irbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government. It was Irbil’s possible fall last week that ended weeks of Obama administration inaction on Iraq.

“The PKK took Mahmour,” a peshmerga fighter at a checkpoint outside Mahmour acknowledged, shaking his head in admiration. Then, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State, he offered an explanation: “They’re very experienced from fighting Daash in Syria and are true guerrilla fighters from their time in Turkey. They have more experience and training than we do.”

There was plenty of gratitude for the U.S. intervention, which since Friday has included at least seven announced airstrikes on Islamic State targets near Irbil.

“The strikes came at the last second but, thank God, they came,” said one Kurdish defense official at Kalak, where the peshmerga has set up a defense line that, compared with last week’s ragged look, had developed a formidable array of machine guns mounted on pickup trucks with ample supplies of light ammunition. [Continue reading…]

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