File - A peshmerga fighter walks to his base at the front line with ISIS militants in Tuz Khormato, 100 kilometers south of Kirkuk.
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The routing damaged the peshmergas' aura of invincibility as one of the only fighting forces in Iraq capable of taking on ISIS, and threatened the Kurdistan region's standing as the sole patch of stability in a country torn by sectarian conflict.As ISIS marched on Baghdad and the Iraqi army abandoned its bases in the north of the country, the Kurds capitalized on the chaos to expand their territory by as much as 40 percent overnight, hardly firing a bullet.At least 150 peshmerga have been killed since ISIS seized the city of Mosul on June 10, according to Kurdish officials.Thousands of volunteers have rushed to join the peshmerga's ranks, and two towns – Makhmur and Gwer – were retaken with the help of guerrillas from the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) after U.S. strikes on ISIS positions, witnesses said.Further east, however, they were forced to surrender the town of Jalawla, in a strategic loss one peshmerga deployed there blamed at least in part on internal Kurdish rivalries.Although Kurds are united in hostility to ISIS, the peshmerga still answer ultimately to the region's two dominant political parties, which fought a civil war against each other during the 1990s.
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