A summer of stalemate in the effort to reclaim the Iraqi provincial capital of Ramadi, despite U.S.-backed Iraqi troops vastly outnumbering Islamic State fighters, calls into question not only Iraq’s ability to win a test of wills over key territory but also the future direction of Washington’s approach to defeating the extremist group.

The Ramadi standoff, with no immediate prospect of an Iraqi assault on the city, drags on even as the U.S. prepares to makeover its approach to countering IS in Syria and congressional Republicans cite Ramadi as evidence of a failed American strategy. Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, a leading critic, says it’s clear the U.S. is not winning, “and if you’re not winning in this kind of warfare, you are losing.”

The Obama administration insists patience will pay off, even in Ramadi, where in May, IS won control against a much larger Iraqi force, shattering claims by U.S. military officials that the group was on the defensive across Iraq.