My 2013 prediction started coming true the week after I made it. This time my 2014 prediction started coming true the day after I made it! Al-Qaeda has taken Fallujah, the site of the most intense fighting in the Iraq war, and the U.S.-trained Iraqi security forces are faltering.
A rejuvenated al-Qaeda-affiliated force asserted control over the western Iraqi city of Fallujah on Friday, raising its flag over government buildings and declaring an Islamic state in one of the most crucial areas that U.S. troops fought to pacify before withdrawing from Iraq two years ago.
The capture of Fallujah came amid an explosion of violence across the western desert province of Anbar in which local tribes, Iraqi security forces and al-Qaeda-affiliated militants have been fighting one another for days in a confusingly chaotic three-way war.
Gunfire and explosions could be seen across Fallujah as Al-Qaida militants and Iraqi government troops battle for control of Fallujah and Ramadi, both strongholds of Sunni insurgents during the US war in Iraq.Gunfire and explosions could be seen across Fallujah as Al-Qaida militants and Iraqi government troops battle for control of Fallujah and Ramadi, both strongholds of Sunni insurgents during the US war in Iraq.
Elsewhere in the province, local tribal militias claimed they were gaining ground against the al-Qaeda militants who surged into urban areas from their desert strongholds this week after clashes erupted between local residents and the Iraqi security forces.
In Fallujah, where Marines fought the bloodiest battle of the Iraq war in 2004, the militants appeared to have the upper hand, underscoring the extent to which the Iraqi security forces have struggled to sustain the gains made by U.S. troops before they withdrew in December 2011.
The upheaval also affirmed the soaring capabilities of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the rebranded version of the al-Qaeda in Iraq organization that was formed a decade ago to confront U.S. troops and expanded into Syria last year while escalating its activities in Iraq. Roughly a third of the 4,486 U.S. troops killed in Iraq died in Anbar trying to defeat al-Qaeda in Iraq, nearly 100 of them in the November 2004 battle for control of Fallujah, the site of America’s bloodiest confrontation since the Vietnam War.