“If I knew where Al-Baghdadi was, I would fly in and kill him tonight,” says Polad Talabani, the commander of Kurdistan’s Counterterrorism Group or CTG.

Polad has been with CTG since its inception in 2004 and minces no words when it comes to what he thinks of ISIS. “We’ve lived here for 10,000 years, you think we’re just going to give it up to the Daesh?” he asked when interviewed by SOFREP at the CTG compound in Sulaymaniyah. Today, CTG operators are nearly indistinguishable from a Western special operations unit. They wear Multicam uniforms, carry M4 rifles, and wear night vision devices. The unit has come a long way in over a decade of conflict, even if they were mostly hidden from the world, flying under the radar until the rise of ISIS brought CTG into the spotlight.

The unit traces its origins back to Operation Viking Hammer in 2003. Prior to the invasion of Iraq, American forces had a problem to deal with in Kurdistan: Ansar Al-Islam. The terrorist group was holed up in the city of Halabja and needed to be taken out before the invasion or the U.S. military might find itself fighting a war on two fronts: one against Saddam’s army and another against Ansar. The 10th Special Forces Group partnered with Kurdish forces to defeat Ansar Al-Islam. One of those Kurds was named Polad Talabani.

Having lived in the mountains of Kurdistan for six years, taking refuge from Saddam’s forces as a child, Polad later traveled to Europe and became a U.K. citizen. “I got a call from my brother,” Polad recalled. “Something big was going down.” Linking up with the Peshmerga, Polad went into action with U.S. Special Forces, defeating Ansar and paving the way for the 2003 invasion. Realizing that 10th Special Forces Group had trained a small but effective fighting unit, the Kurdish government decided that, rather than disbanding the unit, they should build upon it. This led to the creation of CTG and Polad working his way through its ranks.