The Islamic State is slowly finding that its back is against the ropes on multiple fronts. Although its presence inside of Kurdistan’s borders is nearly nonexistent at this stage in the war, its members are feeling the coalition’s sting elsewhere. Places like Ramadi, Kirkuk, Sinjar, and Mosul have either fallen to coalition allies or are under siege. But what happens when the last Daesh stronghold falls? How will the game change?
We are already starting to see the effect of these major losses on the ground. Peshmerga forces have little to no difficulty rolling through Daesh-held territory, and are continuing to advance. The Kurdish Regional Government has already announced that Peshmerga forces, both PUK and KDP, will participate alongside the Iraqi Army in an assault on Mosul in the coming months. With ISIS’s main supply route from Syria to the city cut off after the recent victories in Sinjar, this will surely be just as successful.
With these losses, Daesh has begun to adapt its tactics accordingly. Previously, they had waged a very successful campaign against the Kurdish and Iraqi fronts through a series of rapid, violence of action-based assaults combining the terrorist tactics of al-Qaeda, the modern military equipment of today, and guerrilla warfare to overwhelm their opponents, but defense was never their strong suit. In an earlier stage of the war, they had no problem staying and fighting it out regardless of their inevitable defeat at the hands of the Peshmerga. Over time they have become less enthusiastic and have seemingly reverted to the methods of old.
Now their inevitable defeat has been largely due to the efforts of the coalition and the highly effective air strikes conducted prior to Peshmerga forces assaulting Daesh-held villages. The lack of real hardware being placed in these forward locations makes rolling them over that much easier; that’s not to say the Pesh are better equipped, but Daesh forces are often outgunned during these skirmishes. Of course, anyone who is following this conflict knows where they are keeping all their captured firepower—places like Mosul, Raqqa, and Fallujah. None of these Daesh strongholds have fallen yet, and perhaps there is a reason everyone is taking their time retaking them.