Islamic State insurgents took control on Thursday of large parts of the western Iraqi town of al-Baghdadi, threatening an air base where U.S. Marines are training Iraqi troops, officials said.
Al-Baghdadi, about 85 km (50 miles) northwest of Ramadi in Anbar province, has been besieged for months by the radical Sunni Islamist militants who captured vast swathes of northern and western Iraq last year.
Militants attacked al-Baghdadi from two directions earlier in the day and then advanced on the town, intelligence sources and officials in the Jazeera and Badiya operations commands said.
The officials said another group of insurgents then attacked the heavily-guarded Ain al-Asad air base five km southwest of the town, but were unable to break into it.
About 320 U.S. Marines are training members of the Iraqi 7th Division at the base, which has been struck by mortar fire on at least one previous occasion since December.
Here’s a little perspective on just how quickly the world is spinning out of order.
Five years ago this month (maybe even this week), I was at al-Asad air base with four other comics doing a show. The place was still a war zone but the Americans and Iraqis were very much in charge. The show was packed, the troops were ready to go home and leave things in what seemed to be capable hands. Heck, the other comics and I hit the base store for souvenirs before we choppered out of there.
Now ISIS is trying to overrun some Americans there.
One can debate all that went wrong in Iraq in the last five years, but there has been one constant in this equation that entire time: the Americans have had the same commander in chief since 2010.