by Joseph Klein
On October 22nd, 2007, Osama bin Laden admitted in an audio tape, entitled “Message to the people of Iraq,” that al Qaeda was losing the war in Iraq because it had made mistakes and no longer had the allegiance of Sunni insurgents who had switched sides. When Barack Obama became president on January 20, 2009, the war in Iraq was essentially won. The al Qaeda-backed insurgency was reduced to smoldering embers. George W. Bush’s surge had succeeded.
Safely behind bars at the time was Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, an al Qaeda-linked point man who was imprisoned at Camp Bucca in Iraq, after being captured by U.S. forces in 2005. According to a Pentagon assessment at the time, al Baghdadi “would kidnap individuals or entire families, accuse them, pronounce sentence and then publicly execute them.”
However, the Obama administration decided to shut down the Bucca prison camp and hand over its prisoners to the Iraqi government, including Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, in 2009. The Iraqi government later released him. Al Baghadi boasted to the U.S. soldiers who had held him prisoner, “I’ll see you in New York.”
The release of al Baghadi and other jihadist insurgents from the Bucca prison, coupled with President Obama’s decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011 rather than follow the military’s advice to leave a residual force behind, turned the smoldering embers of the once defeated al Qaeda-backed insurgency into a raging out-of-control conflagration.
Abu Bakr al Baghdadi has re-emerged to become the leader of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). The jihadist group split with “core” al Qaeda after it refused to obey “core” al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri’s order to withdraw ISIS’s forces from Syria back to its home in Iraq and leave the Syrian fighting to the more local Syrian al Qaeda affiliated operatives. ISIS instead consolidated its seizure of territory in Syria from weaker rebel groups. Then, using its bases in Syria to launch more aggressive attacks in Iraq, ISIS in recent days has taken control of large portions of northern and western Iraq including Iraq’s second largest city Mosul. ISIS freed at least 1,000 militants held in prisons in Mosul, adding more jihadists to its swelling ranks. It has looted hundreds of millions of dollars from northern Iraqi banks and taken sophisticated military equipment left behind by fleeing Iraqi soldiers. ISIS has attracted Sunnis disaffected by Iraq’s Shiite Prime Minister al-Maliki’s imperious attitude towards the Sunni minority population.
ISIS’s goal is to create an Islamic caliphate stretching across Sunni-dominated areas of Iraq and Syria. It has also threatened to destroy Shiite holy sites in Iraq and move towards the capital, Baghdad. Under al Baghdadi’s leadership, ISIS has been ruthless, methodically executing its opponents and imposing strict Sharia law wherever it has established control. The United States now has a $10 million bounty on Baghdadi’s head.
The Obama administration has been completely clueless on the dangerous situation that has been brewing in Iraq since its decision to release from U.S. custody Baghdadi and the other prisoners in the Bucca prison camp in 2009 and the total withdrawal of U.S. soldiers from Iraq in 2011. Indeed, the administration has been delusional in its belief that everything has been going so well in Iraq because of Obama’s policies.
Back in 2010, Vice President Joe Biden made this preposterous claim:
I am very optimistic about Iraq. I think it’s gonna be one of the great achievements of this administration. You’re gonna see 90,000 American troops come marchin’ home by the end of the summer. You’re gonna see a stable government in Iraq that is actually movin’ toward a representative government. I’ve been there 17 times now. I go about every two months, three months. I know every one of the major players in all the segments of that society. It’s impressed me. I’ve been impressed, how they have been deciding to use the political process, rather than guns, to settle their differences.Was Abu Bakr al Baghdadi one of “the major players in all the segments of that society” with whom Biden was impressed?
In the middle of 2012, after U.S. troops had been totally withdrawn, Antony J. Blinken, the national security adviser to Vice President Biden wrote that violence in Iraq was “at historic lows.”
And during a presidential debate with Mitt Romney during the 2012 campaign, Obama said: “We ended the war in Iraq, refocused our attention on those who actually killed us on 9/11. And as a consequence, al-Qaeda’s core leadership has been decimated. What I would not have done is left 10,000 troops in Iraq that would tie us down. That certainly would not help us in the Middle East.”
While Obama has bragged about decimating “core” al Qaeda with drone attacks, his focus has been on yesterday’s leaders. There is a new generation of jihadists, inspired by the successes of Baghdadi in the battlefield now encompassing Syria as well as Iraq.
“Not since Osama bin Laden has a leader been held in such reverence among Sunni fighters, scored such stunning and shocking victories, and threatened so much of the established order,” wrote Graeme Baker, an online editor with Al Jazeera. “Baghdadi supporters speak of him as al-Qaeda mark two, the leader of a new generation working to bring about the Islamic caliphate envisioned by Bin Laden.”
Tragically, President Obama is making the same mistake in Afghanistan. He has publicly announced his timetable for complete withdrawal of American troops. And he agreed to release five high level Taliban leaders with ties to al Qaeda from Guantanamo in exchange for an American soldier who left his post without permission and may have deserted his platoon. As reported by AirForceTimes, Rob Williams, the U.S. national intelligence officer for South Asia, told the Senate intelligence committee that four out of the five prisoners swapped for Bowe Bergdahl “are expected to resume activities with the Taliban.”
Albert Einstein is said to have famously proclaimed, “The definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing over and over, and then expecting different results.” That describes President Obama’s policies towards the jihadists to a tee.
Joseph Klein is a Harvard-trained lawyer and the author of Global Deception: The UN’s Stealth Assault on America’s Freedom and the new book, Lethal Engagement: Barack Hussein Obama, the United Nations & Radical Islam.
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