Tens of thousands of foreign volunteers have flocked to the ranks of Islamic State, the jihadist organization that has deeply entrenched itself in Iraq and Syria and carried out terrorist attacks around the world. Far fewer foreigners, however, have joined Kurdish forces trying to dislodge IS from its Syrian and Iraqi strongholds.
In Frontline Fighting: Battling ISIS, a gritty 47-minute British documentary by Dan Reed now available on the Netflix streaming network, viewers are introduced to three Brits who risk life and limb to fight IS, or ISIS, in northern Syria.
The Brits, Jim, Harry and Jac, range in age from 23 to 40. They’ve joined a U.S.-supported Kurdish militia, the People’s Protection Unit (YPG), attempting to reclaim the Rojava region from the jihadists.
The mission at hand is to recapture a string of villages and a mountain-top fortress held by IS. Jim, Harry and Jac, as well as several Kurdish women and a few other foreigners, are attached to a small Kurdish force tasked with achieving that objective.
The Brits are fully committed to the struggle against IS. As they say, they’re here to help bring freedom and democracy to this part of the world and wipe out a movement whose Salafist ideology is “twisted” and “warped.”
The Kurdish force is transported to the battlefield in a convoy of pickup trucks. Their first target, a mud-walled village, lies amid brown fields. Jim, Harry and Jac realize that death awaits them should they be captured.
As they advance, they see the thick gray smoke of a diesel oil fire in the distance. It’s been set by IS to rattle them. As they forge ahead, U.S. aircraft bomb IS positions and a female fighter is shot in the stomach.
IS fighters regroup in an abandoned school before retreating again, leaving behind suicide vests.
Moving forward, the Kurdish force reaches another village that IS had captured. It would seem that IS commanders have made a tactical decision not to fight on this day.
Perhaps much to the relief of the Brits, they learn that American jets have destroyed IS’ headquarters on the mountain, relieving them of the hazardous job of capturing it. Their mission is effectively over. As they sift through the rubble, they find a rotting corpse.
The Brits, having survived the military operation, can now look forward to going home. They’re the lucky ones. A German volunteer is killed in a subsequent battle, as are two Kurdish women.
Frontline Fighting gives us a bird’s eye view of the nasty battles pitting IS against the Kurds.