By Debbie Gregory.
The Iraqi security forces abandoned the last remaining positions in Ramadi as the city fell to the militant group Islamic State (ISIL/ISIS), who ransacked the provincial military headquarters, seizing a large store of weapons, and killing people loyal to the government. The fleeing Iraqi Army units left behind millions of dollars of American-made military gear, including dozens of tracked vehicles, among them about half a dozen M1 Abrams tanks and about 100 armored Humvees and other vehicles.
The chaotic battle involved a dust storm, dozens of Islamic State car bomb attacks and a breakdown in communications between Iraqi troops on the ground and the American advisers providing them with air support. The dust enabled militants to launch a wave of suicide bomb attacks at a moment when the city streets were shrouded in orange haze.
the spokesman for Anbar’s governor, said that at least 500 civilians and security personnel had been killed.
“Men, women, kids and fighters’ bodies are scattered on the ground,” said Sheikh Rafi al-Fahdawi, a tribal leader from Ramadi, who was in Baghdad on Sunday and whose men had been resisting the Islamic State.
Iraqi troops had limited visibility and feared their American ally’s capability to provide air cover might be compromised. The initial attack targeted Ramadi’s governing center, where the Iraqi Army maintained a heavily fortified headquarters.
“There was an armored bulldozer which knocked over the T-wall perimeters, which then was the first explosion. They then had an armored dump truck, an armored Humvee,” one senior State Department official said in describing the initial attack.
That was the first in a series of about 30 car bombs that took out entire city blocks.
The deterioration of Anbar over the past month underscored the ineffectiveness of the Iraqi Army, which is being trained by American military advisers. It also raised questions about the United States’ strategy to defeat the Islamic State.
The Iraqi Army tried to send a “reinforcing column” into Ramadi’s city center, but those troops immediately came under fire and retreated, “which then began a broader retreat from where the security forces were holding,” a State Department official said.
About 3,000 U.S. troops are deployed to Iraq, most advising and training Iraqi forces inside secure military installations. U.S. officials repeatedly have said they believe the strategy to defeat ISIS is working, and no major changes are needed.
Still, officials acknowledge the loss of Ramadi as a significant victory for ISIS and its attempt to expand its so-called caliphate.
But U.S. officials hope the setback is temporary and say this defeat looks nothing like the ISIS advance last June. When militants seized Mosul, Iraqi Army units fled in droves and ISIS consolidated control over dozens of cities in northern Iraq.
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Military Connection: The Fall of Ramadi: By Debbie Gregory