The truth, revealed through interviews with locals and Iraqi security forces, is that the ISIS was far from invincible. The group might have been contained early on, before it advanced on Baghdad and foreign powers, including the U.S., were called to rescue Iraq, if the Iraqi security forces had been willing to fight. The collapse of Baghdad’s army has made ISIS vastly more powerful, every surrender moving the myth of ISIS’s strength closer to reality.
Testimony of police and local sources who witnessed the fall of Tikrit, reveals ISIS was far weaker than previously believed when they swept through the region as Iraqi Security Forces were on the verge of collapse before the offensive began. However, with the momentum of these past two weeks, the augmentation of ISIS by local fighters and prisoners released from anti-terrorism prisons, and the spoils gained from the remains of 7 collapsed Iraqi Army divisions what was once a far less substantial ISIS force is now a formidable conventional army. The ISIS force Baghdad now faces is far stronger than the one it failed to confront only weeks ago.
The account that follows, chronicling the fall of Tikrit and rise of ISIS relies on the testimony of an Iraqi police officer that served in the city and was privy to the decision-making and orders given by high ranking officers. He saw, from the inside, how the security forces began to come apart before any shots were fired. The Daily Beast also spoke with other Iraqis who gave their own stories of the ISIS advance. All of them, fearing reprisals from ISIS forces and their allies, asked that their names not be used to protect their safety.