The Islamic State’s capture of the provincial capital city of Ramadi, in western Iraq over the weekend is indicative of the United States' lack of a strategy and does not bode well for the region's future, according to The Associated Press
Critics of President Barack Obama's strategy, including the decision to withdraw all troops from Iraq in 2011 after some eight years of an American fighting presence there, point to "strategic errors" as reasons for the country's deteriorating situation, according to Fox News.
"Everything you see before you is a result of that big mistake," South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham told Fox News
host Greta Van Susteren on Monday, adding that the chaos in Iraq "is a predictable outcome of withdrawing all forces back in 2011."
Ramadi, where many American lives were lost before it was secured in 2006-07, was once a symbol of an Iraqi-American partnership that worked cohesively to defeat al-Qaida. But it has become "a sad reminder of this administration's indecisive air campaign in Iraq and Syria, and a broader lack of strategy to achieve its stated objective of degrading and destroying (ISIS)," said Graham and Sen. John McCain.
Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who served in the Obama Cabinet and was a key member of President George W. Bush's administration before that, told MSNBC on Tuesday, "We don't really have a strategy at all. We're basically playing this day by day."
"Right now, it looks like they're (Iraq) going the way of Yugoslavia. ... Right now, it looks like we're going to see a lot of trouble in the Middle East for a long time," Gates said.
The Obama administration's lackluster approach, according to the AP, involves "a blend of retraining and rebuilding the Iraqi army, prodding Baghdad to reconcile with the nation's Sunnis, and bombing Islamic State targets from the air without committing American ground combat troops."
Ramadi, considered both strategically and symbolically important, is 70 miles west of Baghdad. Its capture represents the Islamic State's biggest victory to date, according to The New York Times
, which notes that the victory furthers the violent terror group's goal of controlling all of Anbar Province.
The militants also seized "a large cache of weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades and heavy machine guns supplied by the United States and Russia" in taking the city, the Times reported.
Muhannad Haimour, a spokesman for the governor of Anbar, told CNN
that officials are "extremely concerned about massacres that we think will be committed by ISIS."
During the Islamic State’s first day in control of Ramadi, the militants executed a 3-year-old girl whose father fought the group, CNN intelligence and security analyst Robert Baer told the network.
"Anybody who supported the government will probably be executed within the next 24 hours," said Baer. "Their families will be driven out. It will be a bloodbath over the next couple of days. All the soldiers who were captured will be executed."
Already 500 Iraqi civilians and soldiers have been killed, and some 8,000 people have fled the area. On Monday, militants went door-to-door searching homes for policemen and pro-government tribesmen, according to the AP.
The Obama administration concedes that the loss of Ramadi is a "setback" but maintains that the Islamic State will ultimately be defeated. "Periodic setbacks" are to be expected, officials say.
"We will retake Ramadi," said Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren, adding that the timing will be up to the Iraqi government.
Analysts are skeptical. Stephen Biddle, a George Washington University professor of political science who periodically advised U.S. commanders in Iraq during the 2003-2011 war, said Obama has been trying to split the Sunni tribes away from the Islamic State while pressing the Iraqi government to foster and rely on nonsectarian military forces.
"That's clearly not working, or at least it's not making the progress we had hoped it would make," Biddle said.
The U.S. strategy of airstrikes, advisers, and trainers will move forward, according to White House spokesman Eric Schultz, who pointed out that there was an "intensified series of coalition air assaults in the Ramadi area, which included eight strikes overnight Sunday."
The Islamic State’s attack on Ramadi draws comparisons to the 1968 surprise Tet Offensive by the Viet Cong against forces in South Vietnam, which pushed U.S.-led forces to retake the city, writes PJ Media columnist Richard Fernandez
Containing the terrorists via airstrikes and U.S. special operations raids to limit the group's reach might be an option, according to the AP, but is not currently under "active discussion."
Material from The Associated Press and Bloomberg were used in this report.
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