The redoubtable Loveday Morris of the Washington Post describes a catastrophic defeat of the Iraqi Army by ISIS, in which as many as 500 Iraqi soldiers were lost. The incident reminds one of the war in Vietnam, where enemy cadres displayed diabolical cunning and intense devotion, but allies appeared dazed and confused. Nor would recollections of a certain Trojan Horse be inappropriate.
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The lead-up to Sunday’s crisis began a week ago, when the last road to Camp Saqlawiyah, just north of insurgent-controlled Fallujah, was cut by Islamic State militants. One of two tanks that were among the vehicles guarding the road left to refuel, and the militants took the opportunity to attack those that remained, said a 9th Division soldier who was present and spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media.
The fall of the units protecting the supply route meant that the five battalions inside the base were completely besieged.
“There were no reinforcements, no food supplies, no medicine, no water, and then our ammunition began to run out,” said 1st Lt. Haider Majid, 28. “We called our leaders so many times. We called our commanders, we called members of parliament, but they just left us there to die.” . . .
The major assault came Sunday. Soldiers interviewed said army commanders had sent word via walkie-talkie that a rescue mission was on its way and had taken control of a nearby bridge.
Shortly afterward, Iraqi army armored vehicles and military trucks arrived, and the men inside were dressed in the uniforms of Iraqi counterterrorism forces, the surviving soldiers said.
“We thought this was the support we were promised was on the way,” said Capt. Ahmed Hussein of the 8th Division. “The first three Humvees were ahead of the rest with some military trucks. We just let them in.”
One Humvee exploded in the middle of the camp. The two others drove to the perimeter and detonated. The rest of the Islamic State convoy was held back at the entrance, where the survivors said the militants carried out several more suicide bombings as they tried to break in.
“I gathered my soldiers and said: ‘We are going to die anyway. Let’s try to get out,’ ” Hussein said, adding that he and about 400 other soldiers escaped under heavy fire in a convoy. Others were left behind. . . .
The rescue mission that the soldiers had been told was coming “100 percent failed,” he said. On the bridge that they were told had been secured, they found the remnants of that mission: burned army vehicles. . . .
For some soldiers, the incident was the latest — and last — in a series of humiliations. Hussein, for his part, said he would leave the army to join a Shiite militia.
“We don’t have any leadership,” he said. But for the militias, “their leadership is with them in the field; they look after their soldiers.”
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Loveday Morris, “Islamic State attack on Iraqi bases leaves hundreds missing, shows army weaknesses,” The Washington Post, September 22, 2014. This excerpt is about a third of the original. Oddly, when I accessed this story via the Washington Post website, it was missing the best details (included above), but a version accessed via twitter included them.