May 26, 2015 | Quote
How Islamic State’s Win in Ramadi Reveals New Weapons, Tactical Sophistication and Prowess
In late April, a commander for Islamic State said his forces were ready to launch an offensive to take Ramadi, and the group called for fighters to redeploy to Iraq from Syria.
Three weeks later, the jihadist group seized the capital of Anbar province after relentless waves of suicide bombings.
U.S. defense chief Ash Carter has blamed Ramadi’s fall mainly on Iraqi forces’ lack of will to fight. But Islamic State’s battlefield performance suggests the terrorist group’s tactical sophistication is growing—a development the Iraqis and the U.S.-led coalition have so far failed to counter, said Iraqi officials, former U.S. officials and military analysts studying the organization.
An examination of how Ramadi fell indicates that Islamic State commanders executed a complex battle plan that outwitted a greater force of Iraqi troops as well as the much-lauded, U.S.-trained special-operations force known as the Golden Division, which had been fighting for months to defend the city.
Islamic State commanders evaded surveillance and airstrikes to bring reinforcements to its front lines in western Iraq. The group displayed a high degree of operational security by silencing its social media and propaganda teams during the Ramadi surge.
The group also churned out dozens of formidable new weapons by converting captured U.S. military armored vehicles designed to be impervious to small-arms fire into megabombs with payloads equal to the force of the Oklahoma City bombing.
Over the three-day surge in Ramadi, Islamic State fighters launched at least 27 such vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices, or Vbieds, that destroyed Iraq security forces’ defensive perimeters and crumbled multistory buildings.
Military analysts said the new formidable weapon was the latest development showing how the group appears to be learning from battlefield defeats like the one in Kobani, Syria, last summer in pursuit of its goal to control the Sunni-majority areas of Syria and Iraq.
“It’s very frustrating,” said Bill Roggio, senior fellow at the Defense of Democracies think tank and managing editor of the Long War Journal, which chronicles the U.S. war on terror. “These guys are showing a good degree of tactical awareness.”
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