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(CNN) - Experts are reporting a resurgence of al Qaeda in Iraq – a country that was supposed to be stable enough for the U.S. to leave on December 18, 2011, when the last combat troops pulled out.
The New York Times reports that radical Sunni militants with links to al Qaeda are threatening to overtake Fallujah and Ramadi, two key Iraqi cities where many American troops lost their lives during the war.
At least 80 people were killed in clashes in Anbar Province Friday, though a senior interior ministry official says most were al Qaeda members.
During the 2012 campaign, President Barack Obama repeatedly said al Qaeda was on the "path to defeat." In 2013, the President tried to clarify those comments, saying he was talking about al Qaeda's core leadership.
Nearly 8,000 civilians and more than 1,000 members of security forces were killed in Iraq in 2013, according to UN reporting – the country's highest death toll in five years
"Any way you measure it, it's a movement that's both growing, and also one that's inflicting a lot of carnage in areas of the world where it's active," said Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
That includes areas "ranging from Iraq, where almost 8,000 people were killed, the highest death toll since the height of the civil war back in '06 to '07, to Syria, where you have a growing civil war," said Gartenstein-Ross.
For more of our interview with Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, watch the video above.