The Islamic State’s Scorched-Earth Strategy

By Foreign Policy


SINJAR and KIRKUK, Iraq — From the moment Islamic State fighters surged into the Iraqi city of Mosul and then pushed deep into Kurdish-held territory in the summer of 2014, residents of Dibis have looked at their prized forest as more of a curse than a blessing.

This village, located in the hills southeast of the Iraqi Kurdish capital of Erbil, once used the forest as a picnicking spot. Now, its dense foliage was being used by jihadis for attacks on the town. Local peshmerga commanders feared their foes might replicate tactics they’d used elsewhere, torching trees to shroud their target in smoke, rendering airstrikes useless.

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