Former Canadian Forces soldier opens up about fighting ISIS in Iraq
'On the frontline everything is destroyed. It's like the apocalypse.'
A former Canadian Forces soldier who's fighting alongside the Kurdish Peshmerga in Iraq is giving Canadians a rare first-person's perspective on what it's like to be at the heart of the conflict with Islamic State militants.
Wali, 33, keeps a regular blog to share his experience on the battlefield and show what the life of locals is like behind the frontline.
CBC has agreed to withhold Wali's real name because of concerns for his security.
He spoke with CBC Montreal's Daybreak host Mike Finnerty by phone, from a Peshmerga base in Iraq.
Mike Finnerty: Can you describe where you are and what you're doing on an average day?
Wali: Right now I'm about five kilometres behind enemy lines. On the frontline everything is destroyed. It's like the apocalypse. Not a single building is left standing. And then, an hour from the frontline you can go in a theatre and watch a movie. That's just amazing.
How often do you get involved in fighting?
I go to the frontline two, three times a week. Basically there are two types of operations we do. When we just are on the frontline, it's like First World War — it's static. Nothing moves, we just defend our position. The second type of operation we do, it's offensive. It doesn't happen a lot, but when it happens it's very violent, very quick. It's like the Second World War with tanks, infantry, artillery, planes.
How well armed are the Peshmerga forces, the Kurdish forces that you're fighting alongside compared to the ISIS militants?
The Kurds — they don't have enough money, enough weapons. We do our best with what we have: basic equipment, basic rifles. The Kurds need our help. If we just gave them better equipment, more money, the war would be over here in a few months.
You took an ISIS flag, is that right?
It was during a big offensive. We were pushing from village to village. There was this flag after we pushed, and I had nothing to do. What they do, ISIS, is they plant bombs around the flags because they know we want to remove them. But at the same time I really wanted my flag [laughs] so I said to myself, I'm gonna try it. I got to the hill and then very slowly, watching for suspicious things, I checked for bombs and it looked like there were none. I I took a chance, I just closed my eyes and I took it and ... okay I was still alive.