Pentagon: Fall of Ramadi a 'failure'

Pentagon: Fall of Ramadi a 'failure'
© Getty Images

The Pentagon on Tuesday called the fall of Ramadi to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) a "failure." 

"It was a failure of a lot of things, leadership being one of them, tactics being one of them," said Pentagon spokesman Army Col. Steve Warren

He added, however, "it's important to note that war is a fluid thing, there's victories, but the enemy does get a vote and in this case, the enemy was able to gain the upper hand," he said.  

ADVERTISEMENT

He said all small pockets of remaining Iraqi forces had left the city early Tuesday. 

Administration officials had tried a day before to play down the fall of Ramadi, capital of Anbar Province, what is considered the Sunni heartland of Iraq. 

The White House, the State Department and the Pentagon had all characterized the event as a "setback," while lawmakers had used stronger terms. 

Republican Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) called Ramadi's fall "a significant defeat," while Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff (Calif.) called it a "serious setback."

The fall of the city has raised questions about the U.S. strategy of supporting Iraqi forces with airstrikes and training them to take back territory from ISIS. 

Iraqi forces fled last summer as ISIS fighters advanced into Iraq from Syria, capturing Mosul, Iraq's second largest city. 

Warren said that Iraqi forces had "deteriorated significantly" since U.S. forces left the country in 2011, but that there has been some recent improvement. 

"We have seen the Iraqi Security Forces conduct several very successful operations over the course of operations throughout Iraq, but they still have a way to go," he said. 

So far, about 7,000 Iraqi forces have been trained, with an additional 3,000 to 4,000 still in training. The U.S. and coalition partners began training Iraqi forces in November.

Warren said the U.S. is not closely tracking where trained Iraqi forces are going, and did not know whether any of those trained were defending Ramadi. 

"We train them and turn them back over to the Iraqi Ministry of Defense for follow-on deployments, so we don't necessarily track with great fidelity precisely where each of these trained forces go," he said. 

A U.S. Central Command official said, "we maintain tactical awareness of Iraqi Security Forces through the coordination with the government of Iraq via the joint operation centers" with U.S. and Iraqi officials. 

Warren said Pentagon officials "continuously review our training processes, and that will continue." 

At the same time, he acknowledged there were some "deficiencies" in the Iraqi army leadership. 

"There are leadership deficiencies in the Iraqi military. There are also very good leaders in the Iraqi military, as is the case in any army," he said. 

Warren said that the Iraqi forces left behind "in the neighborhood of dozens of tracked vehicles, and probably about a hundred wheeled vehicles." 

In addition, the forces left behind a "handful" of artillery pieces — some inoperable. 

"It's certainly preferable if they had been destroyed but in this case they were not," Warren said. "This is war, some battles are won, some battles are lost."