Islamic militants drove out Iraq’s army on Tuesday and took over key sections of Mosul, the country’s second largest city.

More details from The Associated Press

The assault was a heavy defeat for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in the face of a widening insurgency by a breakaway Al Qaeda group, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The group has been advancing in both Iraq and neighboring Syria, capturing territory in what appears to be a campaign to set up a militant enclave straddling the border.

Earlier this year, Islamic State took control another Iraqi city, Fallujah, in the west of the country, and government forces have been unable to take it back. The far larger Mosul is an even more strategic prize. The city and surrounding Ninevah province are a major export route for Iraqi oil and a gateway to Syria.

In a sign of the weight of the blow, al-Maliki pressed parliament to declare a state of emergency that would grant him greater power, saying the public and government must unite "to confront this vicious attack, which will spare no Iraqi." The parliament speaker called the rout a "disaster by any standard."

On The Real Story, Retired General Jack Keane called it a “sad state of affairs” given the almost 4,500 American lives lost in the Iraq war.

Keane blasted the Obama administration’s decision to disengage from the Middle East, noting that the vacuum has been filled by extremists.  

“In Iraq, we did not provide a residual force,” he said. “And equally important, we did not give the kind of relationship to (prime minister) Maliki that he needed.”