James Jeffrey, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq from 2010 to 2012, pushed back against President Obama’s claim that the intelligence community was caught off guard by the rise of the Islamic State, claiming the White House knew all about the jihadist group’s destructive potential.
In a PBS Frontline documentary to air this week, the ambassador explained that the administration “not only was warned by everybody back in January, it actually announced it was going to intensify its support against ISIS with the Iraqi armed forces. And it did almost nothing.”
Those armed forces crumbled six months later around the Iraqi city of Mosul, fleeing by the tens of thousands as Islamic State fighters captured the city and abandoned U.S. military equipment. It took two more months after that for the United States to finally intervene, bombing the jihadists as they cornered ethnic minorities and advanced within miles of the Kurdish capital of Erbil.
A growing parade of ex-Obama officials have taken to the airwaves to counter the White House’s narrative on Iraq, with former defense secretary Leon Panetta blaming President Obama for failing to leave a stabilizing presence there.
Jeffrey was ambassador when the last American troops were pulled out of Iraq in December 2011.