On  Aug. 18, Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi forces retook Mosul Dam, pushing back Islamic  State (IS) fighters and wresting a vital strategic asset from their grasp. Since IS swept across the Syrian border, taking  Iraq's second-largest city, the dam, which is Iraq's largest and provides electricity to what's left of  Mosul's 1.7 million residents, had become a point of dire concern. While IS never  expressly threatened to destroy the dam (or halt its flow) once seized, the mere  thought of either was a knife poised at the throat of millions of Iraqis. When the  United States intervened with airstrikes, which began on Aug. 8, it offered local  ground forces some much-needed momentum as IS was forced to cede some  of its territorial gains.              Photojournalist  Andrew Quilty, on assignment for , was at the dam on Aug. 19, as Kurdish and Iraqi soldiers alike celebrated, jubilant  at their win over IS, even if they were not always in agreement over how the dam  was won. When a convoy of Humvees carrying Iraqi special forces back from the dam ran into a group of journalists at a  checkpoint at Badriya -- halfway between the northern cities of Dohuk and Mosul --  one soldier stood on the hood of a Humvee to unfurl a captured Islamic State flag and claim the victory as their own. Seeing this, the Peshmerga  soldiers manning the checkpoint protested immediately. A tense standoff ensued,  during which a Kurdish soldier even fired off a warning shot as fighters from both  sides brandished national flags and proclaimed victory.             Later, at the dam itself, a trail of armored vehicles and  personnel carriers crawled its way forward to Mosul, maneuvering around  obliterated IS pickup trucks and blackened craters made by U.S. missiles.              Following the tension at the checkpoint, it was the great irony of  the day that toward the head of the snaking convoy was a Kurd wearing the black Iraqi Special Forces uniform. Maj. Gen. Fadhil al-Barwari, 48, had  fought with the Peshmerga since the 1980s, but in 2004, the then-newly installed  Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki asked him to fight for the Iraqi military. He is now  the commander of Iraq's elite U.S.-trained and equipped fighters, and remains a  popular hero among both Kurds and Arab Iraqis.             Not far beyond Barwari and his entourage, metallic spurts from  several heavy Russian Dushka  machine guns rang out at fighter jets circling above the dam complex, as  pockets of IS resistance surfaced.              On that day, at least, the black flag of IS was in retreat.             Above,  Iraqi Special Forces soldiers shout pro-Iraqi slogans toward Kurdish Peshmerga  soldiers manning a checkpoint at Badriya, after the Peshmerga took issue with  the Iraqis brandishing flags captured from ISIS. A tense standoff  ensued.        

The Dam Is Ours

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On  Aug. 18, Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi forces retook Mosul Dam, pushing back Islamic  State (IS) fighters and wresting a vital strategic asset from their grasp. Since IS swept across the Syrian border, taking  Iraq's second-largest city, the dam, which is Iraq's largest and provides electricity to what's left of  Mosul's 1.7 million residents, had become a point of dire concern. While IS never  expressly threatened to destroy the dam (or halt its flow) once seized, the mere  thought of either was a knife poised at the throat of millions of Iraqis. When the  United States intervened with airstrikes, which began on Aug. 8, it offered local  ground forces some much-needed momentum as IS was forced to cede some  of its territorial gains.              Photojournalist  Andrew Quilty, on assignment for , was at the dam on Aug. 19, as Kurdish and Iraqi soldiers alike celebrated, jubilant  at their win over IS, even if they were not always in agreement over how the dam  was won. When a convoy of Humvees carrying Iraqi special forces back from the dam ran into a group of journalists at a  checkpoint at Badriya -- halfway between the northern cities of Dohuk and Mosul --  one soldier stood on the hood of a Humvee to unfurl a captured Islamic State flag and claim the victory as their own. Seeing this, the Peshmerga  soldiers manning the checkpoint protested immediately. A tense standoff ensued,  during which a Kurdish soldier even fired off a warning shot as fighters from both  sides brandished national flags and proclaimed victory.             Later, at the dam itself, a trail of armored vehicles and  personnel carriers crawled its way forward to Mosul, maneuvering around  obliterated IS pickup trucks and blackened craters made by U.S. missiles.              Following the tension at the checkpoint, it was the great irony of  the day that toward the head of the snaking convoy was a Kurd wearing the black Iraqi Special Forces uniform. Maj. Gen. Fadhil al-Barwari, 48, had  fought with the Peshmerga since the 1980s, but in 2004, the then-newly installed  Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki asked him to fight for the Iraqi military. He is now  the commander of Iraq's elite U.S.-trained and equipped fighters, and remains a  popular hero among both Kurds and Arab Iraqis.             Not far beyond Barwari and his entourage, metallic spurts from  several heavy Russian Dushka  machine guns rang out at fighter jets circling above the dam complex, as  pockets of IS resistance surfaced.              On that day, at least, the black flag of IS was in retreat.             Above,  Iraqi Special Forces soldiers shout pro-Iraqi slogans toward Kurdish Peshmerga  soldiers manning a checkpoint at Badriya, after the Peshmerga took issue with  the Iraqis brandishing flags captured from ISIS. A tense standoff  ensued.        

On Aug. 18, Kurdish Peshmerga and Iraqi forces retook Mosul Dam, pushing back Islamic State (IS) fighters and wresting a vital strategic asset from their grasp. Since IS swept across the Syrian border, taking Iraq's second-largest city, the dam, which is Iraq's largest and provides electricity to what's left of Mosul's 1.7 million residents, had become a point of dire concern. While IS never expressly threatened to destroy the dam (or halt its flow) once seized, the mere thought of either was a knife poised at the throat of millions of Iraqis. When the United States intervened with airstrikes, which began on Aug. 8, it offered local ground forces some much-needed momentum as IS was forced to cede some of its territorial gains.

 

Photojournalist Andrew Quilty, on assignment for , was at the dam on Aug. 19, as Kurdish and Iraqi soldiers alike celebrated, jubilant at their win over IS, even if they were not always in agreement over how the dam was won. When a convoy of Humvees carrying Iraqi special forces back from the dam ran into a group of journalists at a checkpoint at Badriya -- halfway between the northern cities of Dohuk and Mosul -- one soldier stood on the hood of a Humvee to unfurl a captured Islamic State flag and claim the victory as their own. Seeing this, the Peshmerga soldiers manning the checkpoint protested immediately. A tense standoff ensued, during which a Kurdish soldier even fired off a warning shot as fighters from both sides brandished national flags and proclaimed victory.

 

Later, at the dam itself, a trail of armored vehicles and personnel carriers crawled its way forward to Mosul, maneuvering around obliterated IS pickup trucks and blackened craters made by U.S. missiles.

 

Following the tension at the checkpoint, it was the great irony of the day that toward the head of the snaking convoy was a Kurd wearing the black Iraqi Special Forces uniform. Maj. Gen. Fadhil al-Barwari, 48, had fought with the Peshmerga since the 1980s, but in 2004, the then-newly installed Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki asked him to fight for the Iraqi military. He is now the commander of Iraq's elite U.S.-trained and equipped fighters, and remains a popular hero among both Kurds and Arab Iraqis.

 

Not far beyond Barwari and his entourage, metallic spurts from several heavy Russian Dushka machine guns rang out at fighter jets circling above the dam complex, as pockets of IS resistance surfaced.

 

On that day, at least, the black flag of IS was in retreat.

 

Above, Iraqi Special Forces soldiers shout pro-Iraqi slogans toward Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers manning a checkpoint at Badriya, after the Peshmerga took issue with the Iraqis brandishing flags captured from ISIS. A tense standoff ensued.

 

A  pickup truck full of Kurdish Peshmerga forces drives by a crater caused by a  U.S. airstrike not far from Mosul dam. They are on their way to continue the fight against IS to push their forces back  toward Mosul.        

A pickup truck full of Kurdish Peshmerga forces drives by a crater caused by a U.S. airstrike not far from Mosul dam. They are on their way to continue the fight against IS to push their forces back toward Mosul.

 

At  a checkpoint at Badriya, Iraq, Iraqi Special Forces soldiers brandish an IS flag  captured during their offensive to wrest back Mosul dam overnight on Aug. 18 and into the following day.        

At a checkpoint at Badriya, Iraq, Iraqi Special Forces soldiers brandish an IS flag captured during their offensive to wrest back Mosul dam overnight on Aug. 18 and into the following day.

 

Kurdish  and Iraqi forces positioned on Mosul dam.        

Kurdish and Iraqi forces positioned on Mosul dam.

 

Kurdish  Peshmerga soldiers on Mosul dam after taking it back from IS forces.        

Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers on Mosul dam after taking it back from IS forces.

 

A road  sign near Mosul dam. Cars destroyed in the offensive to push IS forces back from the dam and toward Mosul sit charred and idle on the side of the road.       

A road sign near Mosul dam. Cars destroyed in the offensive to push IS forces back from the dam and toward Mosul sit charred and idle on the side of the road.

 

Kurdish  Peshmerga soldiers manning a checkpoint at Badriya shout pro-Kurdish chants after  an Iraqi convoy returned from the battlefront claimed the victory over IS was theirs.        

Kurdish Peshmerga soldiers manning a checkpoint at Badriya shout pro-Kurdish chants after an Iraqi convoy returned from the battlefront claimed the victory over IS was theirs.

 

A  Kurdish Peshmerga soldier prays as his fellow soldiers advance on IS positions.       

A Kurdish Peshmerga soldier prays as his fellow soldiers advance on IS positions.

 

Kurdish forces positioned on Mosul dam after wresting it from IS.       

Kurdish forces positioned on Mosul dam after wresting it from IS.

 

Iraqi  army commander Maj. Gen. Fadhil al-Barwari (seen center) is surrounded by Iraqi  and Kurdish soldiers as they advance on IS after re-taking Mosul dam overnight.       

Iraqi army commander Maj. Gen. Fadhil al-Barwari (seen center) is surrounded by Iraqi and Kurdish soldiers as they advance on IS after re-taking Mosul dam overnight.

 

A  Kurdish fighter inspects a destroyed IS position.        

A Kurdish fighter inspects a destroyed IS position.

 

A  Kurdish Peshmerga gunner, parked  on the Mosul dam, reacts to heavy gunfire in the distance.        

A Kurdish Peshmerga gunner, parked on the Mosul dam, reacts to heavy gunfire in the distance.

 

Kurdish  and Iraqi forces prepare to advance on IS after re-taking Mosul dam.       

Kurdish and Iraqi forces prepare to advance on IS after re-taking Mosul dam.

 

Iraqi  soldiers inspect a destroyed IS position.        

Iraqi soldiers inspect a destroyed IS position.

 

Unexploded ordnance lies in the rubble in the wake of the IS retreat from the dam.        

Unexploded ordnance lies in the rubble in the wake of the IS retreat from the dam.

 

Kurdish  soldiers walk behind a convoy after re-taking Mosul dam from IS overnight.        

Kurdish soldiers walk behind a convoy after re-taking Mosul dam from IS overnight.

 

The  remains of an armored Humvee believed to have been used by IS militants, roughly 3 miles from Mosul dam.        

The remains of an armored Humvee believed to have been used by IS militants, roughly 3 miles from Mosul dam.

 

Kurdish  and Iraqi forces move forward on IS positions after re-taking Mosul dam.       

Kurdish and Iraqi forces move forward on IS positions after re-taking Mosul dam.

 

Kurdish  soldiers regroup during a slow-moving convoy.         

Kurdish soldiers regroup during a slow-moving convoy.

 

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