On to Baghdad?
(CNN) - An Iraqi tribal leader said Saturday that ISIS militants are gaining ground in Anbar province, predicting a "collapse within hours" of Iraqi army forces there if tribal forces withdraw.
Sheikh Naim al-Gaoud, a Sunni Muslim leader of the Albu Nimr tribe, called for more U.S. intervention -- including ground troops, arming tribes directly or at least pressuring the Iraqi government to give the tribes more firepower.
While U.S. officials have said that ISIS, which calls itself the Islamic State, is on the defensive in Iraq and Syria, al-Gaoud says that's definitely not the case where he is.
"In Anbar, we are losing ground, not gaining," he said.
Thousands of families had been under siege in the town of Jubbat al-Shamiya until getting help Friday from U.S.-led coalition airstrikes and Iraqi forces, according to al-Gaoud.
But he said Iraqi troops had pulled out of Jubbat al-Shamiya on Saturday, at which time ISIS was shelling the town.
If the Islamist extremist group's fighters go in, al-Gaoud predicted a massacre.
Key base attacked
Anbar province is just west of Baghdad, meaning a decisive ISIS victory would put militants on the footsteps of the Iraqi capital. It's home to the strategic Ayn al-Assad Air Base, which came under attack Friday.
Talking about that battle, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said 20 to 25 people -- most, if not all, of whom were wearing Iraqi military uniforms and were led by suicide bombers -- attacked the nearly 25-square-mile base.
"It looks like (ISIS militants) at least got to the outer base limits," Kirby said.
At least 13 Iraqi soldiers died in the assault, said al-Gaoud, which ended with Iraqi ground forces killing all the attackers.
American helicopter gunships were also involved in a fight supporting Iraqi ground forces about 15 kilometers (9 miles) north in the Anbar town of al-Baghdadi, according to sources.
Al-Gaoud, the Albu Mimr tribal leader, said militants killed at least 25 Iraqi police officers during their assault on that town Thursday and Friday.
Iranian soldiers marching into battle against Iraq ca. 1985
As a military historian I am fascinated by what appears to be the gross incompetence of the U.S. military in "training" our allies. Now Iraqi forces appear to be collapsing yet again.
But if you go back to the 1980s it was a different story. Under their Socialist Ba'ath Party leaders Iraq not only invaded Islamist Iran but fought a knock down, drag out war for eight years. Iraq may have suffered up to 375,000 dead, 400,000 wounded and 70,000 POWs.
In spite of these casualties Iraq fought on year after year. Meanwhile with U.S. "training" the Iraqi army collapsed almost at once when fighting ISIS.
|Saddam Hussein (right) during the Iraq-Iran War.|
|Iranian soldier with gas mask in the battlefield|
|Iraqi POWs captured by Iran|