Even as an al Qaeda-linked militant group celebrated a major victory in Western Iraq last month, militants from the same jihadist group launched another operation clear across the country.

In coordinated predawn attacks, gunmen blew up two bridges in a village outside the eastern town of Qara Tepe. They detonated a fuel tanker at a police base close to nearby Injana, shot 12 soldiers and incinerated their bodies. By afternoon, militants had attacked four other police and army checkpoints.

Instead of bolstering their ranks, some police and military checkpoints simply packed up and left. Lacking protection, hundreds of villagers fled their homes for larger towns. […]