19 June 2018
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U.S. troop withdrawal let Islamic State enter Iraq, military leaders say

Monday, 27 July 2015 13:48

A number of former and current military leaders who were in power when all U.S. troops left Iraq are saying today that the complete exit left the door open for the Islamic State’s land grab.

The assessment comes from the Army chief of staff, a former Marine commandant, a former U.S. Central Command chief, a former defense secretary and, privately, from the officer now running the war in Iraq against the Islamic State, also known as ISIL and ISIS.

The question is: Will these lessons-learned public comments sway the presidential campaign debate on what should be done to defeat the terrorist army?

The military officials say a residual American air-and-land combat force could have steeled Iraqi Security Forces and blunted the Islamic State’s invasion of northern and western Iraq last winter and spring. The U.S. could have prevented the harm done to Iraq’s command structure by Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister and helped quell bickering among Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds.

ArmyGen. Raymond T. Odierno was the top commander in Iraq in the post-troop-surge era that all but eliminated al Qaeda’s vicious franchise. When the last troops went home in December 2011, he sat among the Joint Chiefs as the Army’s chief of staff, his current position.

Gen. Odierno recently told Fox News: “If we had stayed a little more engaged, I think maybe it might have been prevented. I’ve always believed the United States played the role of honest broker between all the groups, and when we pulled ourselves out, we lost that role.”

He had recommended keeping 35,000 troops in place in 2011. “I think it would have been good for us to stay,” he said.

Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, a commander in Iraq’s Anbar province, in his July 9 confirmation hearing to be the next Joint Chiefs chairman, differed with those who said the U.S. had no choice but to leave because Iraq’s prime minister was not meeting U.S. demands.

“I’m not sure I’d say that that meant we had no option to stay,” he told the Senate Committee on Armed Services.

Gen. Dunford’s predecessor as Marine commandant, and one of Gen. Odierno’s colleagues on the Joint Chiefs at the time, was Gen. James Amos.

Last summer, as the Islamic State shocked the Obama administration by consolidating gains in Anbar province and Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city, Gen. Amos traveled to the Brookings Institution.

“I have a hard time believing that, had we been there, and worked with the government, and worked with parliament, and worked with the minister of defense, the minister of interior, I don’t think we’d be in the same shape we’re in today,” he said.

He also said the U.S. must remain committed overseas — a view that could be read as criticizing the complete Iraq pullout.

“We may think we’re done with all of these nasty, thorny, tacky little things that are going on around the world — and I’d argue that if you’re in that nation, it’s not a tacky, little thing for you. We may think we’re done with them, but they’re not done with us,” said Gen. Amos, who was a few months away from retirement at that time.

Source: Washington Times

 

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