‘Iraqi forces not driven from Ramadi, they drove out of Ramadi’

The US Department of Defense continues its bizarre stream of statements concerning the collapse of Iraqi security forces in Ramadi in the face of the Islamic State offensive. Last week, as Ramadi was under assault and the government center was overrun, General Thomas D. Weidley, the chief of staff for Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, talked about how the strategy to defeat the Islamic State was working and Ramadi was “contested.” Two days later, Ramadi collapsed, and today, Palmyra in Syria also fell to the jihadist group.

Today, General Martin Dempsey, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top military leader in the country, said that Iraqi forces weren’t driven out of Ramadi, they drove out on their own. From DoD News:

Iraqi security forces weren’t “driven from” Ramadi, they “drove out of Ramadi,” the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today…

After-action Review

U.S. commanders in Iraq are working with their Iraqi counterparts to work out exactly what happened, Dempsey said. Reports indicate that Iraqi security forces drove out of Ramadi — an important provincial capital — during a sandstorm May 16.

“This group of [Iraqi security forces] had been forward-deployed in al Anbar [province] — arguably the most dangerous part of Iraq,” he said. “They believed they were less well-supported. The tribes had begun to come together, but had not … allied themselves with the [security forces].”

The sandstorm precluded U.S. air support against ISIL and the Iraqi commander on the ground made “what appears to be a unilateral decision to move to what he perceived to be a more defensible position,” the general said.

So, according to Dempsey, the Islamic State didn’t launch a multitude of suicide assaults on the Ramadi government center, Anbar Operations Command, Camp Ar Ramadi, the Justice Palace, and other locations between May 15 and May 17. Instead, we are told, a sandstorm, which inhibited US air power, caused an Iraqi general to order his military and police forces to just drive out of two military bases and a government center, and a multitude of police stations and checkpoints, to a “a more defensible position,” presumably in Habbaniyah, about 15 miles away.

The US military command is in complete denial about what is happening in both Iraq and Syria. Military officials are continuing to tell us that the strategy to defeat the Islamic State is working, even as major cities fall under the control of the jihadist group (see this DoD News article, Centcom Officials ‘Confident’ Iraqi Security Forces Will Recover Ramadi from today).

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

Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.

Tags: , ,


  • Rosario says:


    This area is playing out like a broken record; the US keeps empowering Iran over the sunni interests, and we have troops risking their lives in the field and air doing a thankless task. Maybe we need to start over here, ie arm the Kurds and establish a no fly zone over Kurdistan. Lets get our people both official military and mercenaries out of there and let the Shiites and Sunni’s settle their differences as before. If the US needs to go back in Iraq, let us doing in overwhelming strength, and perhaps make a right turn at Baghdad and finish the nuclear proliferation cleanup task in Iran completely.

  • mike merlo says:

    so once Iraqi Security Forces have decided that Iran is the preferable venue to set up “Defensive Positions” how will that dork Dempsey frame that narrative?

  • adam says:

    Isn’t it time we let the Iranians feel a bit of ISIS heat? When we provide support to Iranian-backed militias, that frees the Iranians up a bit to do damage elsewhere in the region.

    This policy makes sense only in the context of coaxing the Iranians into a nuclear “deal” (ie, giveaway).

  • john says:

    @ Rosario: The Kurds make up roughly 13% of the population of Iraq. Shiites about 65%. Which army is going to be bigger? The Kurds have repeatedly stated that they don’t have any reason to move beyond Kurdish lands. How will you motivate them to invade Anbar and the other Sunni areas? Letting the Sunnis and the Shiites work out their differences is exactly what we’re doing. Da’ish is powerful enough that they are the dominant Sunni force in the region, the majority. The Shiites don’t care a bit how many Sunnis Da’ish kills. Quit complaining and grab some popcorn.

  • C-Low says:

    The pres took a dump on the Iraq after the election and the majority democratically elected party was sidelined for Maliki so we could meet our imaginary exit date. Politicks. We are not going to be able to sell to the Sunni a democratic mixed state solution again.

    Like it or not at this point it is going to divide along sectarian lines. The Kurds are probably the best prospect for longterm allies. The Sunni and Shia have a longterm bleeding to be done before they re solidify their future borders.

    Sad days for the Iraqis ahead.

  • Giggi says:

    Operation Inchoherent Resolve.

    The US appears beyond lame. One might say, a Unidicted Co-con-spiritor

  • carl says:

    Looks like Baghdad Bob now has a job with the US military.

  • Thomas F Barton says:

    Unfair criticism of General Dempsey. He is not able to reveal intelligence reports confirming ISIS now can organize and deploy sandstorms as a new and highly effective weapon against their opponents.

  • AMac says:

    ‘Iraqi forces not driven from Ramadi, they drove out of Ramadi’ — On first read, I took that to mean that US leaders were acknowledging that the battle for Ramadi wasn’t a fight that the Iraqi security forces lost, but rather another Mosul-style collapse.

    But sadly, it turns out that it’s one more instance of “Who are you gonna believe, me or your own lyin’ eyes.”

    Looks like the partition of Iraq that was being discussed in the bad old days of the Bush years has come to pass. Shias (weak client of Iran & consumer of American treasure), Sunnis (Daesh), and Kurds. Winners: Iranian hard-liners, and Salafists. Losers: everyone else.

  • j house says:

    This is becoming the Obama Pentagon’s version of the Vietnam War five o’clock follies….they have no credibility left.

  • Fred says:

    To “divide along sectarian lines” we’d have to kick out ISIS first. And that isn’t happening. So for the foreseeable future it seems Iraq is already divided along those lines.

  • James says:

    The Iraqis did fight for Ramadi. If anyone lacks the will to fight, it is the loser political hacks based in Washington like Ashton Carter. If anyone were to do just cursory research they will see that Ramadi has been hotly contested for over a year now. Had they been provided spotters, or at the very least antitank weapons in a timely manner to stop the bulldozers and other VBIEDs like they requested, the city would not have fallen.


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram