Peshmerga Gen. Karzan escorted CBN News to the front lines for a rare look at the territory these fighters took back from ISIS. We crossed the fabled Euphrates River and passed the Mosul Dam.
One year ago, ISIS captured the dam and threatened Iraq with an ecological catastrophe. Destroying the dam would have sent a 60-foot wall of water all the way to Baghdad, killing as many as half a million people. The Peshmerga took back the dam with the help of U.S. airstrikes.
On the way, Karzan talked about ISIS.
"They are like a fire," he said. "They're not against a specific ethnic people or religion. They're against everything."
CBN News passed villagers showing support for the military. Without the Peshmerga, their village would be overrun by ISIS.
"They are very glad to live with the Kurds and under the control of the Kurds," the general explained as we went through several checkpoints in territory once contested by the Islamic State and the Peshmerga.
"This is the most dangerous place for all of us and ISIS," he continued. "These places that you see weren't captured easily."
As we approach Peshmerga's base, we're cautioned not to take any video inside.
This is the front lines between ISIS and Peshmerga. ISIS fighters are about 500 meters from where we are. A lot of people say this is a key sector because it controls the Mosul Dam.
But more than that, many people say this is the battle line, the fault line, between the free world and ISIS.
"These villages that you see belong to ISIS," he said.
Karzan commands this forward base.
"They believe that this is the line of the free world," he explained. "This is why when ISIS comes to fight against the Peshmerga, they believe they're crossing the border into Europe."
Soon after we arrive, ISIS fires two mortars toward another Kurdish position.
"This is the only way they can show they are still active," Karzan said.
Back at regional headquarters, we spoke with Maj. Gen. Bahjat Arab.
"Don't forget, the Peshmerga right now are fighting for the sake of the whole free world," he said. "Now if you wanted to take a look at the whole world, no one stands against ISIS. Look at what happened to the Iraqi army. Look at what happened to them. No one fought ISIS, only the Peshmerga."
"If the other people in the world want to know or to see how dangerous ISIS is, let them come and go to Mosul," he said. "See what happened to the Yazidis or the Christians." (Screengrab via CBN News)
He blamed the Baghdad government for the lack of advanced weapons they need to fight ISIS. He described a dismal picture of how they need to maintain their weapons.
"Sometimes we have to repair one weapon with another," he explained. "You know using the parts of one weapon to fix another. This is how we've used the old weapons to fight against ISIS."
Despite the old weapons, retired U.S. General Jay Garner says the Peshmerga are taking the battle to ISIS.
"The only people—that are successfully fighting ISIS—is the Kurdish Peshmerga," Garner told CBN News. "You‘ve got a country here with 4.5 million people that are totally pro-American, more so than we're pro-American."
"They're in one of the most strategic locations in the world, in the Middle East for us," he explained. "To their east is our enemy, Iran; to the south is our enemy, Shia, Iraq; to the west, our enemy, Syria, and to the north is what we call a NATO ally, Turkey."
Garner says Kurdistan is a military man's dream.
"You're in a perfect place where you can strike out of there at any of your enemies, but you've got support in the north with an ally," he said.
Gen. Arab added how grateful he was to the U.S.
"We'd love to tell the American people that the Kurds are their only true friends they have in this area," he said.
The Peshmerga say a decisive factor in the battle against ISIS has been U.S. airstrikes. But with even more arms, ammunition and heavy weapons, they say they can make even more advances against the Islamic State.