Iraqi government forces aided by Shi'ite militias and Sunni tribal fighters have retaken ground lost a week ago to Islamic State (IS) militants and are continuing to advance toward the western Iraqi city of Ramadi.
Local Sunni tribal leader Amir al-Fahdawi was quoted on May 24 as saying that the combined force now controls the city of Husaiba al-Sharqiya, about 10 kilometers east of Ramadi, and was making plans to continue to push back IS fighters.
Ramadi's takeover on May 17 was a major setback for the Iraqi military, which had only recently launched an offensive against IS in western Iraq's Anbar Province.
Islamic State militants are reported to be bolstering forces in Ramadi. Local residents said Islamic State fighters had arrived by truck late on May 24.
Meanwhile, the militant group reportedly took full control of an Iraq-Syria border crossing on May 24 after Iraqi forces pulled back.
With the addition of the Iraqi side of the Al-Walid border post, IS now controls the two main roads between Syria and Anbar.
The offensive came amid harsh comments made by U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter about the will of Iraq's forces to fight IS militants.
Carter said that Iraqi forces "failed to fight" in Ramadi and said the troops lacked the will to defend themselves.
"What apparently happened was the Iraqi forces showed no will to fight," Carter said on CNN's "State of the Union" on May 24.
Carter said Iraqi soldiers "vastly outnumbered" their opposition in the capital of Anbar Province but quickly withdrew from the city.
Iraqi forces left behind large numbers of U.S.-supplied vehicles, including tanks.
Iraqi lawmaker Hakim al-Zamili, the head of the parliamentary defense and security committee, called Carter's comments "unrealistic and baseless," in an interview with the AP news agency on May 24.
He blamed Washington for failing to provide "good equipment, weapons and aerial support" to Iraqi soldiers.
Carter's comment also prompted a reaction from Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who expressed disbelief.
"I'm surprised why he said that. I mean, he was very supportive of Iraq. I am sure he was fed with the wrong information," Abadi told the BBC.
In related news, an Iranian newspaper is quoting the chief of the elite Quds unit in Iran's Revolutionary Guard accusing the United States of allowing the Islamic State group to seize Ramadi.
The report in the May 25 edition of the daily newspaper Javan, which is seen as close to the guard corps, quoted General Qassem Soleimani as saying the U.S. didn't do a "damn thing" to stop the extremists' advance on Ramadi.
Soleimani also was quoted as asking: "Does it mean anything else than being an accomplice in the plot?"
With reporting by Reuters and AFP