Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has come under fire from lawmakers and veteran groups for downplaying the strategic importance of Ramadi in Anbar, Iraq’s largest province, potentially falling to the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL).
ISIS jihadists have reportedly already seized as much as 20 percent of Ramadi since Gen. Dempsey made those comments, Falih Issawi, deputy president of the Anbar provincial council, told Al-Mada newspaper, according to Kurdish media service Rudaw.
“Due to a lack of ammunition and weapons, we did not manage to stop the group’s advance,” said Issawi.
A U.S. congressman who serves as a member of the House Armed Services Committee said that protecting Ramadi is important to defeating ISIS.
Ramadi, the largest city in western Iraq’s Anbar province, was one of the deadliest places for U.S. troops during the Iraq war.
Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-MT), a former Navy SEAL leader who served in Iraq, told Breitbart News that Ramadi is in fact important to defeating and degrading ISIS.
“It’s certainly strategically important for Sunnis, for Iraqi Sunnis,” declared the member of the House Armed Services Committee. “It was certainly strategically important for the U.S. when the U.S. was fighting there and, so, yes it is strategically important because it sends a signal that the U.S. is going to be a partner, but also I think most importantly it sends a signal to the disenfranchised Sunni population.”
“We need Sunni tribes in order to defeat ISIS. To degrade and defeat them we will need the Sunni tribes, the Kurds, and the centralized government. And if we are to separate and isolate the Islamic terrorist organizations from mainstream Islam, we’re going to need the Sunni tribes help in reaching that goal,” explained Rep. Zinke.
Ramadi is considered to be part of the Sunni heartland in Iraq.
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, blasted Gen. Dempsey for downplaying ISIS being close to capturing Ramadi.
“This may be one of the most bizarre and insensitive statements I have ever heard a military leader make,” the senator told Fox News. “But he is also the mouthpiece for a failed—not only a failed policy, but there is no strategy in Iraq and especially in Syria.”
“Sometimes I think I have grown numb from the statements made by General Dempsey in defense of this administration and its feckless foreign policy. This is truly a stunner,” he added.
McCain pointed out that during the 2007 surge, many U.S. Marines and soldiers were either killed or wounded in the battle to retake Ramadi, which proved to be essential in ultimately taking back Anbar Province.
“Now this general says it doesn’t matter. I wonder what he would say to the families of those Marines and soldiers, those brave Americans who were killed and wounded in the battle for Ramadi,” added McCain.
On Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot channel 125, Debbie Lee, founder of America’s Mighty Warriors, a group that helps the families of wounded and fallen veterans, said that she was “infuriated” after Gen. Dempsey said Ramadi was not significant despite the fact that American soldiers where killed there.
“I had tears running down my cheek as I thought of the sacrifice my son made. His blood was poured out on the soil in Ramadi,” she also said, adding that “it was disgusting” hearing those comments from the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.
“He knows doggone good and well the sacrifices that our boys made over there,” she continued. “He knows the loss of life that occurred.”
“Those comments could not have been further from the truth,” said Lee. “Ramadi is so important to what is going on over there.”
Echoing Rep. Zinke, she said, “It’s important to bring Sunnis into the fight against ISIS.”
“They keep minimizing the lack of strategy they have to lead this military and I’m just disgusted with this administration,” she continued, adding, “I’m just fed up and I’ve just had it with this administration and their lack of support for our troops and our families.”
During his three-day visit to Washington, D.C. last week, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi contradicted Dempsey’s comments when speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
He described Anbar as a priority in the fight against ISIS.
On Thursday, Gen. Dempsey told reporters, Ramadi “is not symbolic in any way. It has not been declared, you know, part of the caliphate on one hand or central to the future of Iraq. But we want to get it back. I would much rather that Ramadi not fall, but it won’t be the end of a campaign should it fall.”
Follow Edwin Mora on Twitter: @EdwinMora83