It took the U.S. years to establish control over Iraq. Now, an extremist group that is too violent even for al-Qaida has taken over some of the country's most important cities within a span of days.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a Sunni militant group, has taken control of some of the largest cities in Iraq this week, arriving within striking distance of the capital city of Baghdad. And they've only been on the offensive path for the last six months.
On Thursday, the extremist group took Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown, located just over a two hours' drive north of Baghdad. Fighting was reported in Samarra, a city just 80 miles north of Baghdad, and in Abu Ghraib, located just outside the capital.
Thursday's victory for ISIS comes just a day after the group took Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq. Fallujah and Ramadi, the two largest cities in the embattled Anbar province, have been largely under ISIS control since January.
Just how quickly has this all happened? Compare it to how long it took the United States to gain control over these cities in the mid-aughts.
Tuesday saw ISIS overrun Mosul in one night as security forces fled the city. The coalition campaign to take the city in 2004 took over a week and failed to stabilize the city.