IRAQ // The Liberation of Tal Afar

In a watershed moment for the demise of the Islamic State, Iraqi troops and coalition forces have recaptured ISIS' foothold of Tal Afar. This was the first location to fall to the Islamic State in their summer 2014 campaign, when they suddenly and successfully spread from Syria and took control over much of western Iraq. Imagine the significance, then, when Iraqi forces raised their nation's flag over the citadel just a few hours ago.

While it isn't entirely over yet, retaking Tal Afar has been a relatively quick campaign. FAI Relief shadowed Iraqi forces from beginning to end, serving critical casualty care. It has been our honor to treat national forces supported and recognized by the Ministry of Defense, and serve alongside their medical teams to provide critical care for combat casualties. These men have fought tirelessly, day in and day out, one village, town, and city at a time, to expel this attempted caliphate and its jihad from their territories.

Included in the photos below is a shot of a bulldozer. You may wonder what a bulldozer is doing doing in a military column, but often they are the first in line when troops enter ISIS territory—these guys take the first hits and find the first roadside bombs, saving and preserving the lives of their brothers following behind them. It is incredible courage to defy death and cross enemy lines—and bulldozers are not exactly stealth vehicles.

We are assessing the civilian situation now that Tal Afar is returning to Iraqi sovereignty. It is our privilege to serve here in such historic days.