On January 3, extremists affiliated with al-Qaeda in Iraq declared an Islamic state over Iraq’s Anbar province — the group now controls territory reaching from western Iraq all the way across Syria. The Iraqi government has since deployed troops to Fallujah, as Prime Minister Maliki vowed to remove al-Qaeda from the country and retake the embattled city.
Western Iraq — destabilized by the civil war in neighboring Syria — threatens to be thrust further into sectarian conflict, and violence throughout the struggling, young democracy is at the highest level since before the U.S. surge. Al-Qaeda, through its Iraqi branch, now controls more territory than ever in the Middle East. So it’s worth remembering some of the Obama administration’s predictions about Iraq as America pulled out of the country:
2. We [withdrew troops] in phases. And because we did it in phases, we were continually able to build up Iraqi forces to a point where when we left the cities, violence didn’t go up in the cities; when we further reduced our footprint, violence didn’t go up. And I have no doubt that that will continue. – Barack Obama, December 12, 2011
3. I am very optimistic about — about Iraq. I mean, this could be one of the great achievements of this administration. – Joe Biden, February 11, 2010
5. The last American soldier will cross the border out of Iraq with their head held high, proud of their success. – Barack Obama, from the same October 21 speech.
Unfortunately, many veterans in fact are looking back on their service in Iraq and wondering if their sacrifice was for nothing. In a recent New York Times article, Adam Banotai — who was a 21-year-old Marine Corps sergeant in the 2004 invasion of Fallujah — gave his reaction to news that insurgents retook the city:
I don’t think anyone had the grand illusion that Fallujah or Ramadi was going to turn into Disneyland, but none of us thought it was going to fall back to a jihadist insurgency. It made me sick to my stomach to have that thrown in our face, everything we fought for so blatantly taken away.