U.S. Rethinks Strategy to Battle Islamic State After Setback in Ramadi

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from The Wall Street Journal,

White House could boost support for Sunni tribal fighters.

President Barack Obama, under growing pressure after a setback in the war against Islamic State, is poised to accelerate the training and equipping of Sunni tribal fighters so they can try to reverse the extremists’ recent gains, administration officials said.

Mr. Obama met Tuesday with top national-security advisers in the aftermath of a humiliating defeat of Iraqi security forces in the city of Ramadi. The Sunni extremists of Islamic State seized the capital city of volatile Sunni-dominated Anbar province over the weekend.

U.S. officials initially played down the importance of the takeover of Ramadi, 70 miles northwest of Baghdad in Iraq’s largest province. But the battle exposed crucial weaknesses within the Iraqi military, which is at the heart of the American strategy, and prompted the White House to acknowledge a setback.

The fall of Ramadi effectively settled the debate between Washington and Baghdad over where to focus the fight. After retaking the city of Tikrit in March, Baghdad wanted to focus on Anbar. Some U.S. officials wanted to focus on retaking Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city.

Now U.S. officials are scrapping the idea of immediately turning toward Mosul and plan to focus intensely on Anbar province.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest described the war as “days of progress and…periods of setback.” He said the president and his national-security team are taking a look at “some areas where the strategy isn’t working as intended and needs to be upgraded.”

As a first step, the administration endorsed the Shiite-dominated Baghdad government’s move Tuesday to speed up the training and equipping of local Sunni tribal fighters, expand Iraqi military recruitment, and train local police, officials said.

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