FALLUJAH, Iraq -- Bullet-ridden, beat-up humvees were the only protection on offer from the Iraqi forces as we weaved our way along the back roads leading to Fallujah.
For a time we got separated from the forward crew, and they warned us they believed they'd seen a car bomb driving through the territory -- they told us to not get too close.
But we never saw it, nor did we ever see any U.S. advisers.
The Iraqi army and ISIS have fought to standstill since taking over the embattled city on Baghdad's doorstep.
Colonel Ahmed has been there since Fallujah fell. "Same battle, two years," Ahmed said.
Now he and his soldiers are holding onto a jagged edge of a front line, scattered among the abandoned homes and flattened buildings.
Fallujah has been home to a brutal insurgency since the Iraq war. In 2004, more than 100 U.S. Marines and soldiers died fighting the militants.
Colonel Ahmed told us they never really went away.
Iraqi forces can get as close as about 200 yards of the ISIS front lines, within range of mortars and sniper fire.
U.S.-led air strikes are of limited use, with many insurgents hiding among local residents -- some of whom are loyal to ISIS.
And Colonel Ahmed said the city's also rigged with homemade bombs. "When you enter a home, you don't see anything, but you step on something...the home, all of it, explosion."
U.S. military advisers are now actively helping to plan the battle to retake the city. While nobody could tell us when that's likely to happen, the Iraqi government believes ISIS has been launching its terror attacks on the capital from Fallujah.