From the first Morning Jolt of the week:
FLASHBACK: Obama Administration, Day Three: Crocker, Odierno Warn About ‘Precipitous Withdrawal’ From Iraq
The United States underestimated the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, President Obama said during an interview, to be broadcast Sunday night, in which he also acknowledged the Iraqi army’s inability to successfully tackle the threat.
According to a transcript from Sunday’s “60 Minutes” on CBS interview, correspondent Steve Kroft referred to comments by James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, in which he said, “We overestimated the ability and the will of our allies, the Iraqi Army, to fight.”
“That’s true. That’s absolutely true,” Obama said. “Jim Clapper has acknowledged that I think they underestimated what had been taking place in Syria.”
Interesting pronoun, “they.”
Reached by The Daily Beast after Obama’s interview aired, one former senior Pentagon official who worked closely on the threat posed by Sunni jihadists in Syria and Iraq was flabbergasted. “Either the president doesn’t read the intelligence he’s getting or he’s bull****ing,” the former official said. . . .
In prepared testimony before the annual House and Senate intelligence committees’ threat hearings in January and February, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the recently departed director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said the group would likely make a grab for land before the end of the year. ISIS “probably will attempt to take territory in Iraq and Syria to exhibit its strength in 2014, as demonstrated recently in Ramadi and Fallujah, and the group’s ability to concurrently maintain multiple safe havens in Syria,” he said.
“Essentially what happened with ISIL was that you had al-Qaeda in Iraq, which was a vicious group, but our Marines were able to quash with the help of Sunni tribes. They went back underground. But over the past couple of years, during the chaos of the Syrian civil war, where essentially you have huge swaths of the country that are completely ungoverned, they were able to reconstitute themselves and take advantage of that chaos,” he said. “And so this became ground zero for jihadists around the world.”
Isn’t this what all of those allegedly horrific warmongering Bush administration officials warned about? Didn’t we have an entire 2008 presidential campaign debating the consequences of a “precipitous withdrawal”? Didn’t Obama and his team assure us, over and over again, that they would manage the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq responsibly?
Would the United States and other free nations be better or worse off with terrorists like Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi running Iraq? And would the United States be more or less safe with Iraq ruled by extremists intent on its destruction?
A precipitous withdrawal from Iraq would be a victory for the terrorists, an invitation to further the violence against free nations and a terrible blow to the future security of the United States of America.
I know some in Washington would like us to start leaving Iraq now. To begin withdrawing before our commanders tell us we are ready would be dangerous for Iraq, for the region, and for the United States. It would mean surrendering the future of Iraq to al Qaeda. It would mean that we’d be risking mass killings on a horrific scale. It would mean we’d allow the terrorists to establish a safe haven in Iraq to replace the one they lost in Afghanistan. It would mean increasing the probability that American troops would have to return at some later date to confront an enemy that is even more dangerous.
In fact, not only was Obama warned about this; he was literally warned about this on his first days on the job by Americans on the ground in Iraq.
The U.S. ambassador to Iraq on Thursday warned against an abrupt American military departure from Iraq, saying “a precipitous withdrawal” could run severe risks.
“Al Qaeda is incredibly tenacious,” Ryan Crocker said of the Sunni insurgent group. “They will have to be killed or captured, and as long as they hang on, they are looking for the opportunity to regenerate.”
He added, “[If] we were to decide suddenly we’re done, they would certainly work to use space that opened up to do just that. I think it would encourage neighbors with less than benign intentions to carry them out, and perhaps most importantly I think it would have a chilling effect on Iraqis.”
The comments came one day after Crocker and Gen. Ray Odierno, head of U.S. forces in Iraq, spoke via teleconference with President Obama and other top military brass in Washington . . .
“Taking a look back at when I arrived here in March 2007 and how it looked and felt then, [there’s been] a really remarkable transition within Iraq itself,” he said.
“Neither the Iraqis nor we can take our eye off that ball, because as we tragically have seen, there are still elements out there, particularly al Qaeda, capable of delivering devastating attacks,” he said.
Can we please learn from this? Can we please learn that just because we want a war to be over, it doesn’t end? Can we please recognize that when the U.S. withdraws from a region without a rock-solid allied government to control and secure that region, bad things follow? Can we please accept that malicious forces will aim to kill and conquer, whether or not we’re “war weary”? Can we understand that just maybe some evil people in this world see our “war weariness” as an opportunity?
And can the American public please be more skeptical of the next guy who comes along and says he can keep us safe and more respected in the world just by using “smart, tough diplomacy”?