Photos show what's left of Sinjar after airstrikes drive out ISIS
With dust settling, Yazidi residents of the town cautiously return to pick up the pieces
The Associated Press Posted: Nov 20, 2015 7:00 PM ET Last Updated: Nov 20, 2015 7:57 PM ET
Operation Free Sinjar
Kurdish forces, with the aid of massive U.S.-led coalition airstrikes, liberated the town of Sinjar from the grips of ISIS last week, giving journalists and former residents a rare chance to pick through the pieces of the once ethnically diverse town.
After the air assault, peshmerga fighters launched a major ground offensive dubbed Operation Free Sinjar, raising the Kurdish flag near the centre of town on Nov. 13.
Burning and looting
Before it was overrun by ISIS, Sinjar (about 50 kilometres from the Syrian border) and its surrounding villages was home to about 200,000 mainly Kurdish and Arab Muslims — a rare mix of Sunni and Shia — as well as Christians and Yazidis.
Now the town is largely deserted
Although many former locals celebrated the victory, Sinjar lay in complete ruins. Local Yazidis, some of whom fought with Kurdish forces for the town, picked any salvageable items out of the rubble and left because the front line is still too close to make the town livable.
Yazidis strike back
ISIS extremists overran Sinjar as they rampaged across Iraq in August 2014, leading to the killing, enslavement and flight of thousands of people from the minority Yazidi community, whose members follow an ancient faith that ISIS considers heretical.
Sinjar a significant but tenuous victory
The Kurdish forces encountered little resistance, at least initially, suggesting that many of the ISIS fighters may have pulled back in anticipation of last week's advance. It was also possible that they could be biding their time before making a counterattack.
ISIS occupiers fled between airstrikes
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, U.S. President Barack Obama pointed to the liberation of Sinjar as evidence the air campaign is making progress. Chipping away at ISIS from the air, a strategy endorsed by the president's top security advisers but doubted by many in Congress, is based on the belief that a heavier, boots-on-the-ground approach would yield only a short-lived victory without stronger local armies maintaining stability.
Equal partners, for now
U.S. Air Force F-15E Strike Eagles taxi at an air base in Turkey on Nov. 12 following a bombing run. The United States has six of the fighter jets deployed in support of counter-ISIS missions in Iraq and Syria.
Canada also has six CF-18 fighters taking part, but not for long, according to an announcement by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the recent G20 summit. Trudeau remains committed to a campaign promise to withdraw our warplanes from the mission.