The Iraqi capital of Baghdad is not under imminent threat of falling to ISIS, according to US officials familiar with the defensive situation, but it’s far from business as usual with the Islamists fast approaching from the west.
As they approach, car bombs are becoming all the more common in the capital, with ISIS attacking police checkpoints and other security infrastructure with aggressive strikes.
Suicide bombings are nothing new in Baghdad, even if the rate is increasing. What is new, however, is that ISIS is also carrying out mortar attacks against the capital’s Shi’ite neighborhoods.
Mortar strikes are an inaccurate game, but they keep the population on edge about an outright invasion, and if they can hit northern Baghdad, they presumably can also hit the airport, in the city’s far west.
That could be a game-changer for the US, which has positioned large numbers of troops at the embassy and the airport, and escalated the war to include Apache helicopters primarily to keep the airport from coming under direct threat. If ISIS can start hitting the runways, and it seems likely they can, the US loses its escape plan for Baghdad.