After ISIS captured Ramadi in mid-May, officials were desperate to downplay the importance. When calling a provincial capital of 500,000 people unimportant didn’t work, they insisted there was a plan in place to quickly retake the city. Months later, they’ve made no real progress to that end.
Surrounding Ramadi was supposed to be the first step, isolating it and cutting it off from ISIS supply lines. Over the course of an entire summer, Iraq’s military hasn’t even managed that much, and has suffered some major casualties by trying to position their military too close to the city.
With things not going according to plan, everyone’s looking for a scapegoat. The Iraqi military says there aren’t enough US airstrikes being conducted to take Ramadi, and that the US always insists their warplanes are busy elsewhere.
The Pentagon, by contrast, says that the real reason the fight to take Ramadi isn’t going so well is because a recent heatwave has made troop maneuvers more difficult in the area, following that up with their typical insistence that progress is being made, just slowly and in ways that, to the rest of us, look an awful lot like losing.
The US put 450 ground troops near Ramadi when this plan was first put into place, and has coaxed a number of Sunni tribal fighters into the offensive. The tribals are now on the brink of collapse, however, and the US “advisers” don’t seem to be yielding any progress at all.