Fallujah’s importance to ISIS helped Iraqi forces retake it

The Wall Street Journal reports: For Islamic State, this city was unlike any other: the birthplace of its movement and the first urban center it seized in a blitz that began the occupation of a third of Iraq.

But it took Iraqi forces less than five weeks to defeat the extremist group here, much faster than Iraqi and American officials had expected. One reason, these officials and Iraqi commanders say, was how invested Islamic State militants were in Fallujah, which made them loath to blow it up.

“Fallujah was a command-and-control center,” said a senior Iraqi counterterrorism officer. “They were comfortable there. Their leadership lived there and so did their families. They could not destroy the city in the process of defending it.”

Commanders said the militants had bet on repelling Iraqi forces on the outskirts of Fallujah, but struggled to adapt to the overwhelming force. The center of the city was still inhabited—one reason it wasn’t booby-trapped, as Islamic State had done in other, largely deserted urban areas they lost.

Iraqi officials said the Fallujah campaign exposed weaknesses that raised hopes for retaking the much-larger city of Mosul, Islamic State’s last significant base in Iraq. Both have become administrative centers for the group, heavily populated with its own fighters and civilians. [Continue reading…]

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