ISIS has intensified its push to capture Ramadi, a city of nearly half a million people and the capital of Anbar province:
Islamic State fighters on Tuesday penetrated to the core of Ramadi, the provincial capital of Iraq’s largest province, prompting local security officials to warn that the city was on the verge of falling to the extremists. Such a gain would be the Islamic State’s most significant victory in months.
An ISIS takeover in Ramadi would, indeed, be huge:
Ramadi is one of the last pockets of government control in Anbar, the province that abuts Baghdad on the west and the scene of some of the bloodiest battles waged by American troops during the U.S. occupation of Iraq from 2003 to 2011
Consolidated control of Anbar would open up Islamic State supply routes to Syria and would position the group for an advance on the Iraqi capital.
Fortunately, local security forces and Sunni tribesmen have offered fierce resistence in Ramadi against ISIS. In fact, despite ISIS’s penetration to within meters of the government’s compound, the local forces appear thus far to have repelled the enemy.
U.S. air strikes had been instrumental in helping to kee ISIS at bay. Without such support, the defenders of Ramadi have said they cannot hold out.
Unfortunately, during the recent rounds of fighting, U.S. air support reportedly was minimal. Local officials say they were told that U.S. aircraft are occupied on other fronts. It’s difficult to imagine what front is more critical right now than Ramadi, the site of some of the most intense fighting by U.S. troops during our war against al Qaeda in Iraq.
U.S. Central Command confirms the paucity of U.S. bombing. A spokeman said that the U.S. made two attacks on ISIS in the Ramadi area during the period from Friday through Monday. On Tuesday, it carried out one additional strike.
We have noted before that the U.S. bombing campaign against ISIS fails remotely to approach the intensity of our efforts during the early days of the Afghanistan war or during the Kosovo campaign. Even so, our failure to average even one raid per day while ISIS came close to overrunning the defenders of Ramadi is shocking.
The fight for control of Ramadi continues. Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi pledged today to send more support to Ramadi. Let’s hope that President Obama steps up U.S. support in the form of air strikes.