t Bulldozers have become more crucial — and more vulnerable — in the fight against the Islamic State

bulldozer drivers like him are responsible for moving the war forward one block at a time. Iraqi officers won’t start an offensive without them, and if a bulldozer is knocked out with no replacement, the day’s operation is over.

“There can be no liberation without the bulldozer,” Shwele said.

.. Aside from screening for car bombs and acting as a mobile barricade with a top speed of just over 6 mph, his machine’s 12-foot-wide blade will also act as a de facto minesweeper.

.. Schwele’s dozer is a Caterpillar D7R, built in the United States. It is one of 132 sent to Iraq by the Pentagon since March 2015, according to data provided by the Defense Logistics Agency. It has additional armor but carries no weapons and weighs more than 32 tons. Websites price the civilian variant of the bulldozer at upwards of $200,000.

.. Massive and slow, the vehicles are a favorite target of the Islamic State. When they appear at the end of a street, the militants target their engine with rockets and car bombs.

.. Among one another, the bulldozer drivers within the Federal Police call themselves “The Suiciders,” a name bandied about with a grinning pride.

“The infantry, they can hide behind a Humvee or a berm,” Ahmed said. “I hide behind nothing.”