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Iraqi forces fled Ramadi without a fight

WASHINGTON — Iraqi security forces fled Ramadi without putting up a fight, despite holding as much as a 10-to-1 advantage over Islamic State militants, according to two senior U.S. defense officials.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to discuss key details of the battle, said the primary blame in Ramadi rested with Iraqi security forces.

In the days leading up to its fall, a combination of spectacular car bomb attacks, the ambush of an Iraq army patrol and marginal weather spooked the Iraqi forces. The trigger may have been a minor sandstorm that prompted Iraqi commanders to believe that U.S. warplanes would not be able to bomb Islamic State targets.

A phone call to U.S. officials would have cleared up that misunderstanding, one of the officials said.

Iraqi commandos, soldiers and police officers panicked when they thought they wouldn’t be protected by U.S. warplanes, one official said, and abandoned their posts. They left behind U.S.-supplied vehicles and weapons, which are now in the hands of the militants.

The fall of Ramadi last weekend, coming just days after the Pentagon declared Iraqi forces in control and holding much of the western Iraqi city, came as a major blow to the U.S. strategy to train and assist local forces in the fight against extremists from the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

The capture of the capital of Anbar province, 70 miles west of Baghdad, has increased calls for greater U.S. participation in the fight against the Islamic State. President Obama, in an interview with The Atlantic magazine, called Ramadi a setback but blamed its fall on Iraqi security forces who hadn’t been trained or backed by American troops and said it would not prompt a change in U.S. policy.

Critics of the U.S. policy on Capitol Hill, including Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who chairs the Armed Services Committee, called a hearing late in the week to discuss the strategy in light of Ramadi’s fall. It highlighted, he said, “the shortcomings of the administration’s indecisive policy, inadequate commitment and incoherent strategy.”

McCain cast blame on the Obama administration, in part, for its “constrained” use of airstrikes on the Islamic State and on the strength of Iraqi security forces.



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