The loss of Fallujah to an al-Qaeda affiliate in recent days represents a significant blow to America’s commitment to Iraq and our foreign policy objectives in the Middle East [“Iraq turmoil stirs fears of civil war,” front page, Jan. 7]. The Obama administration’s reaction to this will determine how the United States defines the 2004 battles for Fallujah.
U.S. armed forces fought, and intelligence professionals supported, an almost year-long effort to root out Islamic extremist insurgents from Fallujah. The climax was Operation Phantom Fury at the end of 2004, when U.S. forces conducted an all-out assault against the city. These forces had not seen house-to-house combat since Manila and Hue in 1945 and 1968, respectively . As in those battles, we were victorious in Fallujah. In many ways, that victory was the beginning of the end for Islamic extremist insurgents in Iraq, and Fallujah became a symbol of American resolve to support the new Iraqi government and to prevent that country from becoming a haven for Islamic extremists.