Islamic State routs Iraqi armored column in Anbar

Iraqi and Syrian towns and cities seized by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham and its allies. Map created by The Long War Journal. Click to view larger map.

Fighters from the newly established Islamic State ambushed and destroyed an Iraqi armored column in the western province of Anbar. Islamic State fighters also captured several American-made armored personnel carriers. The ambush highlights the deteriorating state of the Iraqi security forces.

The Islamic State’s Anbar Wilayat (division or province) released a series of photographs on its Twitter account on July 10 that document the ambush of an Iraqi armored column and the aftermath of the attack [photographs below].

According to the statements from the Anbar Wilayat, the Iraqi Army convoy was attacked in the Khalidiyah area in Anbar province. Although the exact date of the ambush was not provided, the Anbar Wilayat typically publishes photographs of attacks within days of carrying them out.

Several photos show Islamic State fighters opening fire on the convoy as it drives on a dirt road in a rural area of Khalidiyah. The Islamic State fighters appear to detonate one or more IEDs, or roadside bombs, on the armored column that includes US made and donated M1A1 Abrams main battle tanks and M113 armored personnel carriers. At least three M1A1s and nine M113s can be identified in the photographs.

At least one tank and two M113s are shown while on fire. One of the Abrams tanks appears to be half buried in a ditch.

The Iraqi soldiers appear to have abandoned the convoy after it was ambushed. The Islamic State only displayed one body of an Iraqi soldier, who appears to have been burned.

Islamic State fighters are photographed on top of the vehicles after the battle. At least two of the M113 armored personnel carriers appear to be operational. An Islamic State fighter is shown driving one of them across a field and toward some homes in the area.

Islamic State consolidating its grip on Anbar

Khalidiyah is located outside of the city of Habbaniyah and near the Al Taqaddum military base. Khalidiyah, which was a bastion for al Qaeda in Iraq up until early 2007, is also halfway between the cities of Ramadi and Fallujah. Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar, is currently contested as the Islamic State is reported to control some neighborhoods in the city. Fallujah, the nearby dam, and Karma and Abu Ghraib are currently under the control of the Islamic State and its tribal allies.

The Islamic State controls most of Anbar province. West of Haditha, the Islamic State runs the towns of Anah, Rawa, and the border town of Al Qaim. The jihadist group also controls the far-flung towns of Rutbah and Nukhaib. The status of the Tarbil border crossing to Jordan and the Al Walid crossing to Syria is undetermined. Although there are reports that local tribes assumed control of the crossings, the Islamic State has displayed photographs of its fighters at the crossings.

The Iraqi military previously had two divisions, the 1st and the 7th, deployed in Anbar, but most of these forces have withered since the Islamic State took control of Fallujah in January and extended its control throughout the province. Many Iraqi soldiers are thought to have deserted; the exact number is not known, however. One estimate puts the number of overall desertions for the Iraqi Army at over 90,000. The Iraqi military has not released information on the number of soldiers killed and wounded since the Islamic State launched its offensive in mid-June.

The leadership of the 7th Division crumbled in later December 2013 after an Islamic State suicide team killed the division commander and 17 members of his staff in an ambush in Rutbah.

The situation in Ramadi has become so dire that the Iraqi government is deploying 4,000 members of the newly raised militias, who are primarily Shias, to an area that is overwhelmingly Sunni. The militia members are being “ferried out to Ramadi from Baghdad by helicopter,” ABC News reported, demonstrating how thoroughly the Islamic State controls the road from Baghdad to Ramadi.

Since launching the second phase of its operation to control territory in Iraq on June 10, the Islamic State took control of Ninewa province, to include Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, most of Salahaddin province, and areas in Diyala province. Additionally, the Islamic State has been waging an offensive in northern Babil province in the area known as the Triangle of Death, and is said to be in control of several areas, including Jufr al Sakhar. The Islamic State is seeking to take over the belt area around Baghdad, and squeeze the capital and make it ungovernable. [See LWJ report, Analysis: ISIS, allies reviving ‘Baghdad belts’ battle plan.]

The Iraqi government has largely halted the Islamic State’s southward advance outside of Samarra, which is just north of Baghdad. Thousands of Iranian-supported Shia militiamen from Asaib al Haq, Hezbollah Brigades, and Muqtada al Sadr’s Peace Brigade are currently deployed between the road from Baghdad to Samarra. Iraqi military and national police units are nowhere to be found on the road, according to The New York Times.

While the Shia militias have helped the Iraqi government slow the Islamic State’s advance toward Baghdad, they has been ineffective so far in helping to retake ground lost to the group. The Iraqi military’s attempt to retake the city of Tikrit, the provincial capital of Salahaddin which is just north of Samarra, has so far stalled since it was launched at the end of June.

The Islamic State’s territory spans both Iraq and Syria. In Syria, the Islamic State controls Raqqah, much of Deir al Zour, and areas in Aleppo and Hasakah provinces.

Photographs from the ambush of an Iraqi Army armored column in Khalidiyah

An Iraqi Army M1A1 Abrams main battle tank is hit by what appears to be an IED:


An Islamic State fighter manning a machine gun observes as the Iraqi Army armored column is ambushed in Khalidiyah:


Armored vehicles in the column are ablaze:


An M1A1 tank is on fire:


Islamic State fighters stand on top of an M1A1 tank:


Another M1A1 tank is half buried in a ditch as Islamic State fighters stand on top of it:


A column of abandoned M113 armored personnel carriers:


The Islamic State captured what appears to be two intact M113 armored personnel carriers:


An Islamic State fighter drives away in an M113:


Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • cj says:

    Far be it for me to be any kind of expert on this situation. Having American troops going into that vipers nest of hatred after spending 8 long years there seems to me would be a huge mistake. We can’t cant save that country again in my opinion. If the right people had done their homework and had the integrity of their office in in mind in 2002 they would have been aware and taken special note that Saddam was at the very least holding that country together. Clearly this is quickly becoming a holy war now. The government there cannot even decide on how they should Gorvern themselves! let alone beat back the enemy of the state. this report says to me that without shia volunteers the state of Iraq would have already failed. Frankly you could very well consider Iraq a failed state already! You have Iran backed shia with American help and you have what… Saudis helping the Sunnis? Its a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. If not now it soon will be. The escalation of tensions between both countries has been Increasing. At the end of the day this isn’t about humanitarian efforts though both countries should be participating in caring for their fellow Muslims in these times of strife. The United States would most likely best be served by getting out of the way and letting history write itself. Its a harsh thing to say but even the Iraqis wanted us out of the way. The awakening happened when the tribes realized that Al Qaeda was bad business for everyone. the same will undoubtedly happen when they tire of this new threat. In my humble opinion it is time to get out of the way of the hurricane and mind our own affairs. America cannot be the worlds savior. At best if the government can come to a decision about how it will operate then they should be a “government in exile” Until things quiet down. Just my two cents. Semper Fi

  • kush dragon says:

    Yet another act of mind-boggling incompetence from Baghdad and its military. M1A1 should be more than capable of dealing with ISIS, but of course we all know this was another in a long, long list of ill thought out strategies and plans by the leaders of the Iraqi regime.
    You really can’t blame anyone in our government for not wanting to support these clowns running Iraq. They are ridiculously bad at what they do. The Kurds are now claiming they warned Maliki about an ISIS advance on Mosul 5 days beforehand. Maliki ignored the warning and demanded the Kurds stay out of Mosul. When ISIS did come, Maliki changed his mind and ordered the Kurds in.
    There isn’t any hope of reason or logic entering into this with Maliki in charge. Supporting Maliki is supporting the guaranteed fragmentation and all out civil war in Iraq, which is exactly what every Western government does not want to happen.
    And finally, I feel sorry for those 4,000 militia being flown into Ramadi because the road there is too dangerous. Judging by the previous performance of Baghdad’s forces, that just doesn’t sound good.

  • BuzzSaw says:

    WTF. Best tanks in the world and they simply run away!

  • Bob says:

    Interesting–I thought M1A1 were 9th division? I have heard of them deployed in Salahaddin–I guess the ISF have split them up and sent some to Anbar because the 9th is involved in the Tikrit battle. Either way, so many Abrams have been damaged or destroyed now. News that Ramadi is dependent on airlift not surprising. And yet, what airlift/ helicopter capability do the ISF have? The situation is building towards a major assault on Abu Ghraib in my opinion. Then they will pound BIAP…and then the Americans will have no option but to return fire. That’s when Obama is in a super embarrassing situation…(the only plus side).

  • Al-Behrta says:

    Further evidence that wars are won by men and religion, not hardware and delusions of “democracy”.

  • Alex says:

    Two thoughts. First, I guess this puts to rest IA’s claim that Ramadi has been secured. Secondly, I wonder how this is going to affect Maliki’s political capital in the ongoing government formation debates. If he was seen by some of the Shi’ite population as some kind of protector…well, a string of military defeats could undo that.
    I’m preaching to the choir here but it’s sad that it’s come this far when it didn’t have to.

  • Abu Adam says:

    This is the real shock and awe, not what you ignorant and incompetent Americans do.
    You Americans must put it through your thick sculls that you can’t win wars. You may win a battle here and there, but you can’t win wars. You can only win wars against enemies that are like-minded, such as Europe or Japan (a country whose people wanted to become Westernized for many years with the Meiji restoration, which many decades before WWII).
    You Americans don’t have the mindset and wherewithal to understand matters that are non-American or non-Western. So, you cause yourselves and others pain with your presence. You create more problems than you solve. The world is a much better place without you.
    I hope you Americans have learned an important lesson, and that you go back to staying at home and leave the world alone. Isolation is the best policy for America and the world. It’s time for Islam to rule!

  • donowen says:

    The Shiites will eventually get their stuff together. I would not be surprised if the tanks ran out of fuel. As with all protracted wars logistics wins– ISIS kicking it now- their logistics issues are coming and the Shiites will have a harded core by that time.

  • Will Fenwick says:

    Even leaving damaged tanks in the hands of the enemy is dangerous, the LTTE had shops dedicated to rebuilding captured armoured vehicles that would mount tank turrets on APCs. They can also be used as static defensive artillery if towed and buried in a defilade position. Dismounted tank turrets were used to this effect by german forces in the battle of berlin for example.

  • m3fd2002 says:

    Sound comments. I was thinking the same thing: why move 4000 Shiite militia into the heart of Sunni Tribal land? That will effectively remove any obstacles to the Sunni Tribe uniting. They would have been better served by reinforcing the BIAP’s perimeter. As for leaving or misusing advanced weapons platforms in the field, that shouldn’t be a surprise, when dealing with this region. The Iraqi Army would be better served with small arms, mortars, and mobile AAA, which ISIS emulates. The Iranians know this, and they are very good at “small ball” or tactical level operations.

  • My2Cents says:

    Looks like the Iraqi government can make some smart moves after all. Sending 4000 islamic militia to Mosul by air, so they are now trapped and must fight or die. Keep reinforcing them enough to stave off defeat, but not enough for victory and the government can grind down both the ISIS and the Shia militias over time. Use the time to rebuild the regular military and the government could win in the end.

  • WTF! If this doesn’t prove that trying to build a dung heap into a house is futile I don’t what will. The best battle tank in the world and they climb out and run away??

  • blert says:

    The M1A1 Abrams comes up short on air conditioning.
    Look at the calendar.
    I suspect that the Iraqi Army has been sending in tanks — fighting in the day time — when any sane commander would hold them back.
    All of these panic moves come straight from Maliki.
    He’s proving to be an even worse general than Saddam… which is really saying something.

  • abdulrahman says:

    we reached out to hitler and the emperor. we are best friends with saudi arabia also. why cant we work with the Islamic State? find out what they want and what they might settle for. the Saudis are not that far removed from IS. the saudis do the same things as IS but we do not label them medieval or barbaric. western countries are hypocrits

  • Barry Larking says:

    Fear not.These people by what ever name cannot hold together. There will be a parting of the ways and I mean plural once they begin the delicate task of carving up the spolis. The greatest danger to the civilised west is not Arabs knocking nine bells out of each other in the Middle East, but the home grown jihadists inside our own countries.
    If our societies could also move swiftly from a dependence on oil, it would help. Oh, that and a return of intelligent people to run our intelligence.

  • popseal says:

    You can’t build a western democracy with Islamic bricks. Americans gave Iraq a chance to be better, but it is choosing to be worse than it ever was. “East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet, till earth and sky stand presently before God’s great judgment seat”, so said Rudyard Kipling.

  • redc1c4 says:

    “You Americans must put it through your thick sculls that you can’t win wars. ”
    the day we decide to stop screwing around and just play an old fashioned game of “Cowboys and Moose Slimes” is the day your tune will change…
    you’re mistaking restraint for inability.

  • Porkostan says:

    > It’s time for Islam to rule!
    Look how great Islam is doing in Iraq. Who wouldn’t want sectarian war, terrorism, and suicide bombing? Muslims can kick back and read the Quran all day, and murder other Muslims in the evening.
    Can’t wait for this to come to the US.

  • JRP says:

    At least the members of the official Iraq State military are acting rationally. They are craven cowards; they do not want to fight the Islamic State; so they run away. It is the United States that is acting irrationally by thinking that it can depend upon others to fight its battle with an existential enemy publically committed to the destruction of the United States. We should go back into Iraq not for the benefit of the Iraqi people, but for the benefit of the American people. Whether it is Al Qaeda or the Islamic State or the two in combination, both represent a clear & present danger to the U.S. homeland. If we do not extirpate these enemies as quickly as possible, we will suffer more 9/11s. It is guaranteed!

  • Gwhh says:

    We give Iraqi government 681 stringers missles before we left. I wonder how many Isis got there hands on so far?

  • Alex says:

    As entertaining as the jihad trolls are, can the mods please clean this up?

  • James says:

    Hi All,
    Just wanted to weigh in here – even though the photos are obvious propaganda, they still remind me a lot of images from the Cuban revolution in the 50s and it makes we wonder if the Maliki governments days are numbered.
    Also, I feel bad for all our guys who got jacked up Iraq. Our soliders overseas give up a lot…they get cruddy wages, have high divorce rates, eat terrible food and have really low personal autonomy. To have spent so many men get hurt over there and have it turn out like this is a real shame.

  • cj says:

    > “We should go back into Iraq not for the benefit of the Iraqi people, but for the benefit of the American people.”
    What benefit would that be pray tell? What does Iraq offer the west to warrant a full scale re-assault? Aside from the area being the cradle of civilization there is no actual value in that country. Amazing how we are always seen as the enemy yet Muslims have spent well over a decade butchering each other. Sunnis and Shia fighting over this version of Islam or that version of Islam. That is Barbarism. Let them have their bloody piece of the sandbox. the reality is that IS is so brutal and so bloody that they have resorted to prehistoric levels of non humanism, cannibalistic even. They are blood thirsty monstrous afterbirths. no sustainable resource can be had from that land so long as IS rules the roost there. It will be a no mans land. No nation of civil people will want to do business with. At the end of the day, IS will eat its own and its structure will collapse and Die.

  • mark says:

    Abu Adam painful truths are not the exclusive preserve of us Americans, Islamic militancy has many.
    I will not be so brash as to assume what yours are, since you seem so incipient to ours you must know your own failings.
    I will just throw out some “pause for the cause” observations.
    1. Take the allegory, “Americans will sell you the rope you can hang them with.”, is such a contradiction that it goes without saying that its diacritical nature is lost on those whom only see the rope and our knecks from the onset. Could it be by selling you the rope we skillful test intention. Heck sometimes we just give away the rope just to test intentions of the intrigant.
    Funny thing about American rope. You need both ends to tie the noose. And in your excitement you start tugging on the rope as if you own both ends only to find we have not let go of our end of the rope. We tug back.
    Therefore, qed Islamic militancy is so transparent.
    2. As hard as this is to say, knowing that not too many know the painful truth, “playing army” requires the tip of spear to be kept generationally sharp. We now have tens of thousands of people looking at these essentual questions…
    a. How can more battlefield technology be remotely controlled, not as in can it done, but how can it be done
    b. How can robotic drone observation be made more lethal in urban settings through network communications and robotic assault platforms.
    c. And the list goes on, at a speed you can not being to imagine.
    Therefore, qed Islamic militism is so doomed.
    3. As for the politics of war, be very fearful of the day the music changes. Remember it is not, “we will remember”, since a will can be bent it is “we SHALL remember”.
    Therefore, qed Islamic militism is so prophetic or is it pathetic.
    To sum this up. Islamic militism is so transparency doomed it is pathetically prophetic. You are being corralled into a freefire zone. So, Abu Adam who is here living in fear, certaintly not I.

  • Abu Adam says:

    The rule of the Islamic state will expand way beyond Iraq and Syria. All these “muslim” hypocrites who have befriended America and the West will run to the US and other failing and corrupt Western countries. The entire Middle East and North Africa will be soon ruled by the Islamic state, and it will flourish because America and its allies will not be allowed to interfere any longer. America and the West have been the root of all evil in the Muslim world. Soon it will be over.
    America is like an animal who has just been slaughtered…it hasn’t fully realized that it’s dead, so it kicks its last few kicks. 🙂

  • timeline says:

    “We give Iraqi government 681 stringers missles before we left. I wonder how many Isis got there hands on so far?

    Nope, they ordered those last summer and to my knowlege that contract has yet to be delivered.

  • Mike E says:

    Heads need to roll in the US military amongst those who trained and signed off on the competence of the Iraqi forces that we “stood up”. It seems that the military has become complacent and tolerant of incompetence and bizarre behavior. Karpinsky, Ricardo Sanchez, Abizaid, Berghdahl, Shinseki, Major Hassan etc, the list goes on. From junior officers to, more troublingly, senior leaders.

  • Rhyno327 says:

    The only role I see for the US is identify the leadership, structure of the organization, and possible targeting. Maliki is inept, corrupt, and I don’t see a reason to help him. Iran owns him. Part of the jihadist playbook is to hit the US, Europe, so we would be negligent to not apply our resources wisely. Giving the Iraqis more weapons means ISIS takes them after they run. Not worth saving, not 1 more American life for Maliki.

  • mark says:

    Abu Adam, me thinks you are counting your chickens before the eggs hatch.
    1. The side you have seen of us americans since 9-11 has been a measured responce, at great cost yes, but just the tip of ice berg. Islamic fanatics have ZERO idea of what happens in situation where actual goverance of so called pan islamic state must function, all the while we pull a 24/7 number on it. Claiming a islamic state and actually forming one are two different things. Special while trying to wage a war.
    2. Contrary to how mass media focus on terrorism, its social effects and etc, waking a dragon, getting us to jump up and down in the street, will see a different outcome than invisioned by islamic master minds, so we take a few hit, for us it will not be the end of the world, in other words don’t believe the sterotype identity protrait painted over our society by mass media, it is a false image of our country.
    3. Lastly, and most importantly, tell me what does an islamic state actually have to offer, other than Zoroastrian Turkomanized Islam because that is all the Islamic State has to offer to its people and culture. An Islamic State, envisioned through ideology that God has left it to man to eradicate his enemies, is doomed in this world. There are too many outside of the islamic state ideology, we will not sit idlidly by.

  • M3fd2002 says:

    At the start of the offensive i saw reports of us military sources, sorry no link, that a large number of stinger manpads were considered captured from mosel. In addition! Over 50 m109 155mm artillery pieces were captured. Its been a debacle of scale.

  • Evan says:

    Abu Adam,
    Only a fool would think and speak as you do.
    My nation is the greatest gift that God has ever bestown upon this Earth.
    My Brothers in Arms have more skill, discipline, tenacity, and toughness in their pinky toe, than your entire IS.
    My people are more creative, resilient, compassionate, intelligent and resourceful than the rest of the world combined, much less your pathetic attempt at a “caliphate.”
    It pleases me in the most visceral of ways that you have
    underestimated us so badly.
    Pass it on to your buddies Abu, we’ve been watching you for some time, studying you, evaluating your strengths and weaknesses, assessing your fears, learning your OODA loop.
    We are coming Abu Adam, we won’t stop coming, and after we have utterly destroyed you, your ilk and those like you, your ideology will die along with you.

  • sundoesntrise says:

    This comment section only ever strongly reinforces my belief that all religion is destructive, and that a secular state must exist to take all the political power away from religion. Look at what people do and say to each other in the name of religion; this is an abomination. You’d think in 2014, people would learn to behave a bit more rationally, but I guess I’m expecting too much when I ask for that.
    And I’m talking about all religion, not just Islam.


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