It took the U.S. years to establish control over Iraq. Now, an extremist group that is too violent even for al-Qaida has taken over some of the country’s most important cities within a span of days.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a Sunni militant group, has taken control of some of the largest cities in Iraq this week, arriving within striking distance of the capital city of Baghdad. And they’ve only been on the offensive path for the last six months.
On Thursday, the extremist group took Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s hometown, located just over a two hours’ drive north of Baghdad. Fighting was reported in Samarra, a city just 80 miles north of Baghdad, and in Abu Ghraib, located just outside the capital.
Thursday’s victory for ISIS comes just a day after the group took Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq. Fallujah and Ramadi, the two largest cities in the embattled Anbar province, have been largely under ISIS control since January.
Just how quickly has this all happened? Compare it to how long it took the United States to gain control over these cities in the mid-aughts.
Tuesday saw ISIS overrun Mosul in one night as security forces fled the city. The coalition campaign to take the city in 2004 took over a week and failed to stabilize the city.
Fallujah fell to ISIS in five days. It took coalition forces nine months to regain control of the city in 2004 after the March ambush that killed four Blackwater contractors.
The coalition campaign to retake Ramadi in 2006 lasted five months and ended in an inconclusive victory; ISIS took large parts of it in the span of a week earlier this year, although its hold over the city has been tenuous.
Now, Baghdad is well within the grasp of ISIS. “We are using the word ‘encircle,’ ” Jessica Lewis, an expert on ISIS at the Institute for the Study of War, told Time. “They have shadow governments in and around Baghdad, and they have an aspirational goal to govern.”
What We're Following See More »
The National Defense Authorization Act passed the House this morning by a 375-34 vote. The bill, which heads to the Senate next week for final consideration, would fund the military to the tune of $618.7 billion, "about $3.2 billion more than the president requested for fiscal 2017. ... The White House has issued a veto threat on both the House and Senate-passed versions of the bill, but has not yet said if it will sign the compromise bill released by the conference committee this week."
"Republicans have elected Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR) the next chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee. Walden defeated Reps. John Shimkus (R-IL) and Joe Barton (R-TX), the former committee chairman, in the race for the gavel" to succeed Michgan's Fred Upton.
"Democratic and Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are working on legislation that would limit deportations" under President-elect Donald Trump. Leading the effort are Judiciary Committee members Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) is also expected to sign on.
Donald Trump has selected retired Marine Gen. James 'Mad Dog' Mattis as his secretary of defense, according to The Washington Post. Mattis retired from active duty just four years ago, so Congress will have "to pass new legislation to bypass a federal law that states secretaries of defense must not have been on active duty in the previous seven years." The official announcement is likely to come next week.