Iraqi forces in Ramadi had held a 10-to-1 numerical advantage over the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant when the pro-government troops retreated in the face of an ISIL offensive over a week ago, Pentagon sources told Al Jazeera on Tuesday.
The U.S. Department of Defense has declined to say publicly how many Iraqi forces were in Anbar's provincial capital before the fall, but sources told Al Jazeera the total was approximately 10,000, including 7,000 Iraqi security forces and 3,000 federal police and special forces.
Over the weekend Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the Iraq forces lost their will to fight, despite the fact they “vastly outnumbered the opposing force.”
Pentagon sources said ISIL captured Ramadi on May 17 with 1,000 fighters and are now reinforcing those forces from the west.
Iraq vowed to retake Anbar province — now mostly held by ISIL — by launching a large-scale military operation after its humiliating defeat. The mission, which Iraqi state TV said was backed by Shia militias and Sunni pro-government fighters, is deemed critical in regaining momentum in the fight.
A Shia unit spokesman toldAFP on Tuesday that Iraqi forces had surrounded Ramadi on three sides.
Many tribal leaders in Anbar, however, have voiced concerns that the inclusion of Shia units in the fight could exacerbate sectarian divisions in the province.
As a sandstorm descended across the region Tuesday, there was no sign of any major engagement against ISIL, which, despite the U.S.-led airstrikes, has been gaining ground in the province west of Baghdad.
A Pentagon spokesman, Col. Steve Warren, said Iraqi forces have begun probing and reconnaissance actions that would precede any major combat in or around Ramadi.
Since the fall of Ramadi, Iraq and the U.S. have traded accusations over who was to blame for the failure to maintain control of the city, which had been among just a few towns to remain under government control in Anbar.
Tens of thousands of residents from Ramadi have fled the city in recent weeks.
Al Jazeera and wire services. Jamie McIntyre in Washington, D.C. and Imran Khan in Baghdad contributed to this report.