The Providence Journal (R.I.), Jan. 2, 2016

Rather than leave a sufficient force to prevent a power vacuum in Iraq, the United States precipitously withdrew all of its combat troops at the end of 2011, putting at risk years of enormously costly efforts to create a stable country and ally in place of the bellicose regime run by murderous dictator Saddam Hussein. So it was terribly sad when the terror group ISIS seized control of the important city of Ramadi last May, as Iraqi forces wilted and fled.

Fortunately, that supposed ISIS triumph was short-lived.

According to various media reports, Iraqi troops – part of a U.S.-led coalition – have almost completely recaptured Ramadi from ISIS. It is the capital of the country’s largest province, Anbar, and is strategically located along the Euphrates, one of the largest rivers in Western Asia.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said in a speech on state television, “2016 will be the year of the big and final victory, when (ISIS’s) presence in Iraq will be terminated.” He added that Iraqi troops are also “coming to liberate” the city of Mosul “and it will be the fatal and final blow” to ISIS.

It is far too early to celebrate what Mr. al-Abadi sees as an impending victory. At the same time, he has a point: The liberation of Mosul would be a huge blow to the terrorist group.

ISIS took enormous pride in capturing Ramadi last May, raising its flag in triumph at the government headquarters. While the latest turn of events does not mean the militants will suddenly drop their weapons and head home, it should help weaken ISIS.

To be sure, such groups as ISIS, al-Qaida, Boko Haram, Hamas, Hezbollah and others that draw strength from religious hatreds and terrorizing civilians will not fade easily. The United States and its allies have a tough job on their hands.

Still, ISIS’s loss of Ramadi should damage morale, perhaps discouraging new recruits from joining. In the words of Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, “It shows once again that ISIS is not unbeatable.” It also could strengthen President Obama’s argument that his plan to weaken ISIS is working.