From his muddy outpost on the front line in North Iraq, Grim can see the black flag of the Islamic State snapping in the wind just 500 metres away.
The 52-year-old Boston native – who several months ago found his way to a peshmerga base south of Kirkuk – sits in a crude breeze-block shelter, surrounded by mud and dirt, gunfire crackling in the background.
“We are fighting a scourge,” said Grim, who did not want to disclose his real name. “We are fighting murderers and rapists: people who burn people in cages, people who behead people. This is not a civilised army. They are animals.”
Grim said he had been moved to leave behind his life in the US and take up arms after reading about the militant group’s persecution of Yazidi and Christian civilians. “I have two kids and a beautiful woman at home,” he said. “She knows I’m here and she’s not happy about it, but she understands.”