Christians Join Fight Against Islamic State in Iraq

Christians in Iraq recently joined Kurdish fighters and government forces in an effort to push the Islamic State out of the northern territory, including the city of Mosul.

The Nineveh Plains Protection Unit, formed two years ago following the rise of the Islamic State's persecution of Christians in northern Iraq, works together with the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government to fight the terrorist group's militants.

"We are currently 600 trained fighters and more young Christians are ready to join," Sefa Ilyas Checo, the commander of the Christian military unit, told Voice of America. "We are ready to fight IS inside Mosul city."

The media outlet adds that the majority of the NPU hail from Mosul, a northern Iraqi city rich in Christian heritage that was overtaken by the Islamic State in 2014.

The main goal of the Christian militant group, according to VOA, is to drive the Islamic State out of cities like Mosul.

Sons of Liberty International, a U.S.-based group, has been training members of the NPU since December 2014.

Matthew VanDyke, who oversees Sons of Liberty International, told The Christian Post in an interview last year that their objective is to train NPU to defend their land in northern Iraq against the Islamic State.

"The purpose of the NPU is beyond just fighting ISIS," VanDyke told The Christian Post last April. "It is not just a short-term project. They have their eye on being a security force for their region from now on, and being able to demonstrate to their people that they will be safe and that they can stay in the country and Christianity can survive in Iraq."

Iraqi forces have attempted to regain multiple regions from Islamic State control, including the central city of Ramadi, which was successfully reclaimed by government troops last year following a seven-month occupation by the terrorist group.

Despite this recent victory, some American military leaders have remained skeptical of Iraq's ability to take more cities from ISIS control.

Marine Corps Lieutenant General Vincent Stewart has suggested that the retaking of Mosul will prove to be a more "complex operation" compared to the success of Ramadi.

The military leader has maintained that an operation in Mosul will likely take over a year.

"Mosul will be a complex operation. … I'm not as optimistic that we'll be able to turn that in the near term, in my view, certainly not this year," Stewart said during a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting in February.

"We may be able to begin the campaign, do some isolation operations around Mosul," he said. "But securing or taking Mosul is an extensive operation and not something I see in the next year or so."

Although Stewart provided a pessimistic outlook for Mosul's future, Iraqi forces have received praise for their continued success at keeping the Islamic State out of Ramadi.

"What you're ultimately now looking at is Daesh (another name for ISIS) is being hit on many fronts, and is not simply capable of dealing with the level of evolving professionalism and capability that you see in the military forces of the Iraqis," U.S. Lt. Col. Joe O'Callaghan, who oversees a U.S. task force in northern Iraq, told The Wall Street Journal in January.

Despite success in keeping terrorists out of Ramadi, the United Nations has called on international powers to do more to help Iraq maintain stability and fight back against the Islamic State.

Lise Grande, who serves as Iraq's U.N. humanitarian coordinator, recently told Reuters that Iraq needs millions of dollars more to maintain a solid infrastructure.

"We know that the government has its back against the wall fiscally. In order to stabilize areas and to help displaced families go back, we've got to do more," Grande said, pointing to the country's dwindling oil prices and sapped resources.

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