Pentagon officials stopped short of confirming reports that a key Iraqi city is close to falling to the self-proclaimed Islamic State.
If the city of Ramadi was truly in danger on being overrun by ISIS, it would be a devastating setback to those hoping that the terror group has been thrown back on its heels.
But some Pentagon officials were skeptical.
“As of yesterday, Ramadi was not about to fall,” a defense official explained to The Daily Beast.
And at U.S. Central Command, which leads the American military effort in the region, said they had no indications that there had been an immediate change in the security situation in Ramadi.
Residents reportedly told local reporters Wednesday that ISIS had claimed the villages of Sjariyah, Albu-Ghanim and Soufiya, in Iraq’s restive Anbar province. Those villages lead to Ramadi, the capital of the province. There were several tweets from locals suggesting that Ramadi was about to fall.
Reports that Ramadi is about to fall comes as the Iraqi government is take the campaign against ISIS to the Sunni-dominated Anbar province. ISIS has been pressing onto Ramadi for nearly a year.
On Monday, Pentagon officials said that Iraqi forces, backed by U.S.-led coalition air strikes, had reclaimed 25 percent of Iraqi territory from ISIS since June 2014, when the group took Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city. And earlier this month, Iraqi officials said they had regained control of the Sunni central city of Tikrit from ISIS. The campaign, which Iraqi launched without American help, faltered until U.S.-led coalition air strikes began.
Such gains have many hoping the group is entering its last days.
But U.S. officials concede that ground forces did not confront a major fight in Tikrit. Instead the city was littered with booby traps and IEDs, suggesting that fighters had hunkered down—not been defeated.
News that Ramadi could fall imminently comes as Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi is leading an Iraqi delegation on a visit to Washington, his first since becoming prime minister last year. Abadi is pleading for additional economic help, funds and weapons from the Obama administration.