U.S. vet who helped win Ramadi in 2006 laments loss to ISIS

In 2007 there were areas of Ramadi where one could walk about freely, thanks to the American troops who fought off al Qaeda during the Iraq war
In 2007 there were areas of Ramadi where one ... 03:05

Palmyra, Syria fell to ISIS just days after the militants chased the Iraqi army out of Ramadi, Iraq, a city of 500,000. ISIS is on the offense, its momentum unbroken by the U.S.-led campaign of airstrikes. Ramadi is the capital of Anbar Province, where 1,300 Americans lost their lives. David Martin spoke with a former U.S. officer, who is watching all he fought for being lost to an Iraqi army in disarray.

WASHINGTON -- When V.J. Tedesco led a task force of 1,000 men and women into Ramadi in the spring of 2006, it was probably Iraq's most dangerous city.

"There was nothing but al Qaeda in Iraq," said Tedesco. "They had created a very dense and very sophisticated defense in-depth using massive amounts of IEDs and everything else."

Now retired, Tedesco says his task force lost 14 tanks -- but tanks can be replaced.

V.J. Tedesco CBS News

"In nine months in Ramadi we lost 17 soldiers, Marines, and sailors operating in my task force and in the areas I controlled and we had more than 100 wounded," he said.

Sgt. Terry Lisk was killed by a mortar round; Sgt. Nicholas Gibbs by a sniper; Sgt. Edward Shaffer died two days after Christmas. But after nine months of fighting they had something to show for their sacrifice.

"When we left in February of 2007 there were areas of the city that you could move freely about that were unimaginable nine months before that," said Tedesco.

A year later there was even a Ramadi soccer tournament. Now those hard won gains have been wiped away by the inability of Iraqi troops backed by American air strikes to stand up to ISIS, the successor to al Qaida in Iraq.

Tedesco said there's "a lot of bitterness and pain" among soldiers who fought in Ramadi. Tedesco himself feels a tangle of emotions -- sadness, resignation and anger, specifically toward the politicians, both in America and in Iraq.

On Memorial Day Tedesco is going to Arlington National Cemetery to stand at the grave of Specialist Andrew Daul.

"I'm going to run into the mothers of other men and women, many of whom died in Ramadi and Anbar at the same time who are buried around him (Daul) and it's going to be hard this year," said Tedesco. "There's no two ways about it. It's going to be hard."

Tedesco lost 17 in his task force. A total of 83 Americans were killed in Ramadi during the time he was there.