President George W. Bush declared the end of major combat operations in Iraq on May 1, 2003. (Larry Downing / Reuters)

City names that were frequently in newspapers years ago have returned to the headlines. One by one, towns in Iraq are falling to either Islamic state of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an al-Qaeda splinter group, to Kurdish militants or to other tribal forces. The cities where soldiers fought and overthrew violent insurgencies are now the scenes of bloodshed once again. Here is a look back at Washington Post stories that described these regions after U.S. victories, and the bleak conditions in those cities today.


U.S soldiers moved into Fallujah on Nov. 9, 2004. (Scott Nelson/ Getty Images)

2004: "The city has been seized," said Lt. Gen. John F. Sattler, commander of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. "We have liberated the city of Fallujah." "Fighting in Fallujah nears end" by Jackie Spinner, Nov. 15, 2004. 

2014: Fallujah was the first major city in Iraq that fell to ISIS earlier this year. “At the moment, there is no presence of the Iraqi state in Fallujah... The police and the army have abandoned the city, al-Qaeda has taken down all the Iraqi flags and burned them, and it has raised its own flag on all the buildings,” said a local journalist who asked not to be named because he fears for his safety. "Al-Qaeda force captures Fallujah amid rise in violence in Iraq" by Liz Sly, Jan. 3, 2014


Iraqis are seen through the dirty window of an American Humvee during a patrol in a suburb of Ramadi on Feb. 1, 2006. (Chris Hondros/Getty Images)

 2007: Gen. David H. Petraeus had persuaded Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to visit a U.S. military base in the city. The point of Maliki's visit was to "show that the Shiite-led central government cared about those outside the capital regardless of their sect." "Maliki, Petraeus visit insurgent hotbed in Iraq" by Sudarsan Raghavan, March 14, 2007

2014: Most of Ramadi is under ISIS control, and some senior officials predict that the entire Anbar province would soon fall to the militants. "Insurgents in Iraq seize main border crossing with Jordan" by Liz Sly, June 23, 2014.


U.S. troops searched for insurgents in Mosul. (AP Photo/Jim MacMillan)

2005: This year, U.S. troops handed off Mosul to Iraqi forces. It was "at the center of the U.S. military's strategy to hand off counterinsurgency operations to Iraqi security forces." "Handoff to Iraq forces being tested in Mosul" by Steve Fainaru, April 7, 2005. 

 2014: One of Iraq's largest cities fell to ISIS, paving the way for the major gains militants made in northern Iraq. MAP: How ISIS is carving out a new country


U.S. soldiers watch as smoke billowed in the air from a damaged oil pipeline in Baiji, Aug. 17, 2003. (Murad Sezer/AP)

2006: Baiji became home to insurgents when U.S. troops were focusing their energies on bigger cities. Spec. David Jones, on his second tour in Iraq, said "I didn't expect to lose so many friends so soon." "In Iraqi oil city, a formidable foe" by Ann Scott Tyson, Jan. 19, 2006.

2014: After clashes between militants and Iraqi forces, tribal factions control most of Baiji's oil refinery, the largest in the country. "Kerry urges Kurdish leaders to stick with Iraq" by Anne Gearan, Abigail Hauslohner and Ben Van Heuvelen, June 24, 2014.


U.S. soldiers had fired on a car when it failed to stop, despite warning shots on Jan. 18, 2005. (Chris Hondros / Getty Images)

2006: President George W. Bush called Tal Afar a "textbook counterinsurgency campaign." Although the military had major successes in the city, reporter Ann Scott Tyson wrote, "The city's future rests on resolving its bitter sectarian divide and building a society that will be able to rely on Iraqi forces and political decisions that are outside the U.S. military's control." "Ten days in Tall Afar" by Ann Scott Tyson, March 26, 2006.

2014: Hundreds of families fled the city as ISIS militants took control mid-June. The capture of Tal Afar was particularly telling as there is "a large population of ethnic Turkmens, many of them Shiite," a contrast to many of the Sunni cities ISIS has seized. "ISIS grabs Iraqi town of Tal Afar" by Liz Sly and Abigail Hauslohner, June 15, 2014.


A U.S. soldier walks through the rubble of a building bombed in u.s. airstrikes in Baqubah. (Andrea Bruce Woodall / The Washington Post)

2007: After months of clashes, U.S. soldiers believed they had taken back a "large portion of the violent city." "Troops take embattled Baqubah bit by bit, U.S. commander says," by Joshua Partlow, June 26, 2007.

2014: Baqubah is seemingly still under Iraqi control, though reports of a mass killing in a jail mid-June and other reports of increased violence mean the city is far from safe. "Iraqi army increasingly bolstered by Shiite militias as ISIS advances" by Loveday Morris, June 20."



Tribes take over oil refinery in Baiji

WorldViews: The apparent return of Iraq's three most notorious men

MAP: How ISIS is carving out its own country