WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon said on Sunday that Islamic State militants had gained the advantage in fighting in Ramadi and that if the western Iraqi city fell, the U.S.-led coalition would support Iraqi forces “to take it back later.”
While stopping short of confirming Islamic State’s statement it had seized full control of Anbar province's capital, the Defense Department appeared to leave open that possibility, which would mark a major defeat for the Baghdad government.
“Ramadi has been contested since last summer and ISIL now has the advantage,” Pentagon spokeswoman Elissa Smith said, using another acronym for Islamic State. She said the loss of the city would not mean the overall Iraq military campaign was turning in Islamic State’s favor, but acknowledged it would give the group a “propaganda boost.”
“That just means the coalition will have to support Iraqi forces to take it back later,” Smith said, adding that the United States continued providing it with air support and advice.
(Reporting by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Peter Cooney)