Military Battles ISIS Over Town Near Base with U.S. Troops

Soldiers in the Iraqi military and Islamic State militants have clashed this weekend in the town in western Iraq that have changed hands a number of times near an Iraqi military base where hundreds of U.S. troops have been training Iraqi soldiers.

Hundreds of fighters from the IS captured the majority of Baghdadi, the small town, on Thursday, but on Friday night, soldiers from the Iraqi military had retaken a number of government buildings.

Early Saturday, in what seems routine now, the Iraqi soldiers withdrew and all but handed the town to the militants said local officials.

A commander from a police unit in the town said he did not have any explanation of why the military in Iraqi pulled back, adding that militants had surrounded a residential area where hundreds of civilians were living and put all the family in big danger.

Eight months since the IS stormed the region of western and northern Iraq have passed, and lapses by the army in Iraqi have left the IS militants in control of many important towns despite repeated airstrikes by the coalition led by the U.S.

Concerns over the performance of the army have threatened to delay an offensive that has been long awaited on Mosul the second largest Iraqi city.

The militants had been resilient in Anbar a western province, especially around the air base Ayn al-Asad near the town of Baghdadi where close to 300 troops from the U.S. military are training soldiers from the Iraqi military.

Eight militants on Friday attempted to infiltrate the military base, which has raised concerns that American soldiers might be drawn into combat on the ground.

A military spokesperson released a statement that said the U.S. troops had been several kilometers from the battle and that Iraqi soldiers had killed the eight militants prior to them attacking.

The sudden pull back of Iraqi military Saturday highlighted challenges facing the government in Iraq as it attempts to professionalize and unify forces that are battling the IS.

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