While most of the commentary on the recent ISIS push in Fallujah and Ramadi has focused on Obama’s culpability and how all the men who died there died for nothing, a lot has gotten lost in the noise. Nothing in warfare, least of all 4GW, is that simple.
ISIS has had a rocky year. From its formation in April, and Abu Dua’s announcement that it is one and the same with Al Nusra, it has clashed with its Syrian counterpart. When Abu Dua attempted to claim operational command over all Al Qaeda forces in Iraq and Syria, he got told to stand down by Zawahiri. More and more clashes between ISIS and Al Nusra have turned bloody in recent months, and ISIS has been left out of the major Islamist alliances in Syria lately. Now, the newest umbrella organization of Islamist fighters in Syria, Jabhaat al Islamiya, has actively gone to war with ISIS in Syria.
With the Syria theater going badly, ISIS needed a win. So they pushed on their home turf, which has always been Fallujah and Ramadi. Remember, this organization came out of Zarqawi’s AQI. Many of them know the turf intimately. That puts them at an advantage, especially with the manifest weakness of the Iraqi security forces.
Anyone who worked with the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Police can tell you that while there were exceptions to the rule (there always are), the overall quality of the security forces was pretty low. A lot of this is cultural. Another part of it can of course be placed at the feet of the political decision to completely disband the Iraqi Army at the close of official hostilities in 2003. The material has all been pretty amateur, and it shows. It was revealed most graphically leading up to the provincial elections in April. Violence steadily increased throughout 2013, as the ISF found itself without major US support, and unable to handle the resurgence of the insurgency.