A member of the Iraqi security forces gestures at a government complex in the city of Ramadi, December 28, 2015.

A member of the Iraqi security forces gestures at a government complex in the city of Ramadi, December 28, 2015. 

Credit:

REUTERS/Stringer

Iraq wins One. Islamic State loses three. 

When ISIS militants took over the Iraqi Sunni Muslim city of Ramadi in May 2014, Iraq's armed forces fled in humiliation, leaving weapons behind. 

Defense Secretary Ash Carter said at the time that the Iraqi forces just lost the will to fight. That was controversial — but true at the time, says Matthew Bradley, a Baghdad-based reporter for the Wall Street Journal. 

Now, 19 months later, Iraqi forces are riding high in their first significant victory against ISIS.

"This retaking of Ramadi is very important as it vindicates the same military that has been so maligned, so embarrassed and so humiliated," says Bradley  

Strategically, the victory is relatively small, he says. Symbolically, it's huge. "Any win is a boost of morale. And that's what Iraqi troops needs — morale"

The Iraqi army had been attempting to recapture Ramadi for the past month, with the help of air strikes from the US-led coalition fighting ISIS. 

This becomes the third major loss for Isis in as many months. "They recently lost in the refinery town of Beiji, and after that ... Sinjar," says Bradley. "ISIS is on the retreat and on the decline." 

The next target for the Iraqi government could be recapturing Mosul, Iraq's second largest city.

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