Iraqi Kurdish fighters are slowly laying the groundwork for a prolonged military offensive against Islamic State forces by reclaiming strategic villages on the northern Iraqi plains as they prepare to serve as the front-line fighters in America’s new Middle East conflict.

Backed by a small number of U.S. airstrikes, lightly armed Peshmerga forces routed Islamic State extremists from this deserted village on the rolling plains separating Kurdistan from the militant stronghold in Mosul.

The tentative control of Hassan al-Sham is the latest military victory for Kurdish forces making painstaking progress in reclaiming territory Islamic State militants captured during their summer offensive. […]