Islamic State insurgents have planted land mines and other explosives to stall a Kurdish push to retake this town, an unfolding battlefield strategy that foes describe as built on patience, the element of surprise and a willingness to take losses.

The fighters borrowed the tactic from their predecessors, al Qaeda in Iraq, who used improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, to prevent U.S. forces from retaking ground during the decadelong war that ended in 2011.

The strategy has proved effective. Last week, Iraqi troops were slowed by mines planted along highways into the city of Tikrit, causing a stalemate in a renewed counteroffensive against Islamic State fighters there. Repeated Iraqi military attempts to retake Tikrit, a city of about a quarter of a million approximately 110 miles northeast of Baghdad, have failed. […]