On the Front Line Against ISIS: Who Fights, Who Doesn’t, and Why

An in-depth report on the inconclusive battle to take one little village called Kudilah exposes the weakness of the strategy to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second-biggest city.

Scott Atran in the Daily Beast:

ScreenHunter_1875 Apr. 21 19.06It is April, and fighting is stalled, with part of the Iraqi army forces camped at the village of Kudilah and unable to advance because of fierce resistance and counterattacks by the so-called Islamic State. The research team that first came here in February to talk to fighters on all sides about a ferocious battle that was supposed to be over, or at least ending, is continuing its interviews.

Our aim is to better understand the “will to fight.” President Barack Obama and his National Intelligence Director, James Clapper, have called this “the imponderable” that has led to an overestimation of the allied ability to degrade and destroy Islamic State forces and an underestimation of their ability to resist.

At Kudilah, fighters from the Islamic State (also known by the acronyms ISIS, ISIL, and Daesh) are pitted against Arab Sunni tribesmen along with Kurds of the Iraqi Army and the Peshmerga of the Kurdish Regional Government.

American and German military advisors and contractors planned the battle, in part, to test out the coalition of forces needed for the eventual assault on the nearby city of Mosul, the second biggest metropolis in Iraq and by far the largest population center under ISIS control anywhere.

More here.