A coalition of Kurdish and Yazidi forces cut off ISIS supply routes in a major offensive to take back the city that was the site of a massacre more than a year ago.
Iraqi media reported that Peshmerga gained control of the road between Baaj, Iraq — where caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was wounded this spring — and Sinjar, where Yazidis were driven out of their neighborhoods into a terrifying siege on the overlooking mountain. Thousands of Yazidis were killed in that ISIS offensive, and many women were kidnapped as sex slaves.
The forces battling ISIS to take back Sinjar include women and men fighting side by side — Peshmerga, YPG, YPJ, PKK and Yazidi fighters of the HPŞ (Protection Forces of Sinjar). Some Yazidi women who escaped or were rescued from ISIS began military training after their liberation.
Seizing Highway 47, the east-west route along Sinjar, would cripple ISIS’ supply route from Raqqa to Mosul, the Pentagon said today.
Within hours, the Kurdish Regional Security Council said the 7,500-strong ground force had captured a section of the highway.
“This is a specific effort to target this one supply line, this critical supply line, between Raqqa and Mosul, that — we think, if it is indeed severed — would have an impact on ISIL in its operations, particularly in Iraq,” press secretary Peter Cook told reporters today.
U.S. and other coalition advisers, Cook said, are “behind the front lines, advising and working directly with Peshmerga commanders. There are some advisers who are on Sinjar mountain, assisting in the selection of airstrike targets.”
“I think it’s fair to say that this a more assertive approach by the coalition writ large, including by the Peshmerga to go after this particular, strategic location,” he added. “And we’re doing everything we can to make this as effective a fight as possible, and I think it reflects the larger effort to try and defeat ISIL, and to bring — apply pressure to ISIL on as many fronts as possible, and this is just one example of where that is happening. And where, again, effective ground forces are posing a real challenge to ISIL, and we’re doing everything we can to support them.”
The Pentagon notably praised Turkey — which is less than pleased by a strong coalition of Kurdish fighters — in the very next breath after confirming the Sinjar operation.
“As I mentioned earlier this week, six F-15Cs arrived at Incirlik in response to the government of Turkey’s request for support in securing the sovereignty of Turkish airspace. Turkey is a NATO ally, friend of the United States, and important partner in the international coalition against ISIL,” Cook said.
“Turkey’s role in counter-ISIL operations — including the hosting of U.S. assets, participation in counter-ISIL — coalition counter- ISIL air operations, cooperation to reduce the flow of foreign terrorist fighters, and support for the vetted Syrian opposition — is critical to our collective efforts to bring stability to the region.”
Kurdish forces reported that there advance was slowed by ISIS planting roadside bombs. Kurds were claiming dozens of ISIS casualties as they advanced.
Yezidi fighters of the HPŞ (Protection Forces of Sinjar), posing after taking a major road from ISIS: pic.twitter.com/XHQskLXeFi
— FreeYezidiFoundation (@Free_Yezidi) November 12, 2015
— Hemin Hawrami (@heminhawrami) November 12, 2015
— Julie Lenarz (@MsJulieLenarz) November 12, 2015
— Afarin Mamosta (@AfarinMamosta) November 12, 2015
— Peshmerga News (@PeshmergaNews) November 12, 2015