How US Policy Enabled the Rise of Al Qaeda 2.0 and the Collapse of Iraq
Policy decisions and politically driven censorship of the American national security establishment have helped strengthen Al Qaeda's successor and hastened the collapse of the nation of Iraq.
The current administration and the President represented Operation Iraqi Freedom as the "wrong war," as opposed to the "good war" that was Afghanistan. The Vice President even called the end of our involvement in Iraq one of the great achievements of Obama's tenure.
With the jihadi group ISIS now in control of parts of the country that together equal the size of Syria, taking over former US bases, and moving toward the capital of Baghdad, the "achievement" has vanished.
The chaos and murder unleashed in the last few days are beyond the comprehension of the majority of Americans who have never served or lived in a war zone. According to the vicar of Baghdad Andrew White, Iraq is now witnessing mass violence and atrocities worse than anything seen since the invasion in 2003.
Almost 4,500 American servicemen and women died in OIF, and the US taxpayers have spent $20 billion to equip and train the Iraqi security forces. So how did we arrive at this apocalyptic horror?
The fact is that ISIS – The Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (or the Levant) – has grown in strength and ferocity in the last three years to a point that it now is more powerful and capable than the original Al Qaeda whence it came. It has become Al Qaeda 2.0. ISIS's growth is in part a result of conscious actions and policy decisions taken by the current US administration.
First, since very early on in his presidential campaign and then after becoming the Commander-in-Chief, it became obvious that the President had little interest in international affairs and national security. In fact, in his first speech to graduating West Point cadets in 2009, he was unequivocal. It was time to “end the war in Iraq" because “we must rebuild our strength here at home.” The White House agenda since 2008 has primarily been driven by domestic projects aimed at expanding the state such as Obamacare. That is why none of the National Security Advisers appointed by the White House since General Jim Jones was ignominiously replaced in 2010 have been recognized names in the world of national security. The issue just does not interest the incumbent, and therefore there was no need for a Kissinger- or Brzezinski-caliber replacement.
As attested to by a remarkably in-depth 2011 article in The New Yorker, the administration sees all crises as unique and unrelated to one another. So great is this belief that America does not need a strategy to deal with the world and inform our national actions in a consistent fashion that the President, when interviewed on national television, actually stated that having "blanket policies" can get you "into trouble." As a result, the idea that the chaos in Syria, where ISIS built its forces, was connected to the future stability of Iraq did not occur to the administration until Mosul, Fallujah, and Tikrit had fallen to fighters trained and hardened in the war against Assad just next door. Our government cannot connect the dots if the Commander-in-Chief openly believes that doing so is a bad idea.
This lack of any strategic approach to the global threat of jihadi groups is compounded by politically-driven censorship of the national security and defense establishment. As documented elsewhere, in 2011 putative "representatives" of the Muslim communities in the US demanded that the White House review and censor all counterterrorism training materials and trainers used by the Defense Department and Department of Justice, their claim being that existing materials and trainers were un-Islamic or "Islamaphobic." This event that has come to be known as "the purge" – see this documentary for the full story – and led to the forced removal of any mention of Islam or jihad from all governmental training materials used by our armed forces or the FBI. As a result, as a government, we have blinded ourselves to such an extent that it has become practically impossible for a national security professional to understand what is going on in the Middle East and what drives groups like ISIS or Al Qaeda without getting into trouble for being politically incorrect.
Of course, trying to understand the decapitation of enemy forces or the tactic of suicide attacks without referring to, or being allowed to refer to, jihad is analogous to our trying to understand the Third Reich in 1944 while banning our soldiers and intelligence professionals from talking about and analyzing Nazism.
Lastly, the fact that Senator Obama built a campaign narrative on the foundation that Afghanistan is the "good war" and Iraq was the "bad war" locked his administration onto a politically defined track that short-changed America's national security interests. Once in office, commitment to this narrative – that was deemed to have helped him win office – meant that the Iraqi campaign had to end at all costs. So great was the pressure that the administration was prepared to pull all US forces out in 2011 without securing the standard Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Baghdad that would have allowed us to leave enough forces in country to suppress and deter violence against the Maliki regime and keep the country functioning after more than 4,000 Americans had died to free it from Saddam Hussein.
You don't have to be a dastardly neoconservative to understand that the events occurring now in Iraq – and Syria, and Libya, and even Egypt – have direct implications for the security of America. We know that Westerners, including Americans, are going to the Middle East to fight the jihad. If they win, or simply survive to come back home, they will present a clear threat to any political system such as ours that is not sharia-compliant or theocratic.
But there is a bigger danger.
Al Qaeda was formed out of an organization not dissimilar to ISIS. In the 1980s a Palestinian-Jordanian called Abdullah Azzam created the Services Bureau (MAK) to fight the Soviet military units in Afghanistan just as ISIS is fighting the military units in Iraq that they consider to be kufr (unbelievers) because they are Shia and not Sunni. Azzam's deputy was a Saudi named Osama bin Laden who inherited the MAK when Azzam was assassinated. Bin Laden then turned the MAK into Al Qaeda, the same Al Qaeda that killed almost 3,000 Americans in New York, Washington, D.C., and Pennsylvania on September 11th, 2001.
According to the official investigation, the 9/11 attacks cost Al Qaeda $500,000. On its murderous rampage to Baghdad, ISIS has captured $430,000,000 from Iraqi government coffers. Should these jihadists, who are now stronger than the original Al Qaeda they grew out of, capture all of Iraq, or Iraq and Syria, they will likely turn their sights on the "Far Enemy" as the MAK/Al Qaeda turned against us when the Soviets were defeated.
In this case, however, they will have enough money for at least 800 9/11-scale attacks.
Dr. Sebastian Gorka has been appointed the Major General Horner Chair of Military Theory at Marine Corps University and is the National Security Affairs editor of Breitbart.com.