Since retaking these barren hills in northern Iraq from the jihadists of the Islamic State, Kurdish pesh merga forces have dug in: excavating trenches, unfurling barbed wire and coordinating with the United States-led military coalition to identify targets for airstrikes.

The new outposts dotting the hilltops provide clear views of villages where Islamic State jihadists build truck bombs and launch attacks, but the Kurdish forces have no plans to advance, saying the territory is not theirs to fight for.

“Now our main job is defense,” said Maj. Gen. Mohammed Khoshawe, a field commander. “To defend the Kurds, this is the farthest we go.” […]