The president and his flacks are talking as fast as they can to explain that the visible deterioration of our interests around the world has nothing to do do with the actions of the administration itself. This past Sunday on 60 Minutes Obama passed the buck to his intelligence functionaries for failing to foresee the swift rise of ISIS over the past two year. Now his flacks have had to dial the exculpatory sound level up to 11. We took a look at State Department spokesman Marie Harf in action here on Monday.
Harf’s State Department colleague Jen Psaki took a turn with the spin on Tuesday. Reuters State Department reporter Arshad Mohammed asked Psaki: “Is the basic point you’re trying to make that you–that the administration fully grasped the threat posed by ISIL and took aggressive and effective action to confront that threat from the beginning of the year? Is that what you’re trying to argue?”
But of course!
Mohammed asked: “If that’s the case, if your actions were so effective and so aggressive, how is it that since the beginning of the year they’ve been able to seize very large swaths of territory, by some estimates a third of Iraq and Syria?”
The answer appears was conveniently located in Psaki’s briefing book. She was prepared! Psaki repeated the administration line that U.S. “overestimated” the Iraqi army’s ability to fight ISIS, the line also peddled yesterday by White House flack Josh Earnest.
Mohammed followed up with another pointed question: “I mean, the U.S. government trained the Iraqi forces for the better part of a decade. Was that not a failure to not understand that this armed force that the U.S. government had trained at enormous taxpayer cost was not in fact capable of defending its own territory? And wasn’t that something you missed then?”
That is indeed a good question.
At the Daily Caller, a pseudonymous Defense Department official responds to this line under the name “Joseph Miller.” Miller is described as a ranking Defense Department official with a background in special operations and combat experience in Iraq and Afghanistan. Miller writes in response to the same line peddled yesterday by Earnest:
In 2010, General Lloyd Austin, then-commander of United State Forces in Iraq, directly informed the president that over 20,000 U.S. troops would be required to maintain the gains made by U.S. forces against al-Qaida and its affiliates, and to mentor the fledgling Iraqi security forces– because he knew they were not ready to go out on their own.
But in order for Austin’s plan to work, the United States would have to negotiate and sign a security agreement with the government of Iraq to give the U.S. legal authority to keep U.S. military forces in that country beyond December 2010. The White House claims they were forced to withdraw because then-Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki refused to grant U.S. force serving in Iraq post 2010 immunity from Iraqi prosecution– a prerequisite for the presence of U.S. forces anywhere else in the world.
But the administration made no attempt to seriously negotiate an agreement with the Iraqis, and cited our withdrawal from Iraq as a major achievement during the 2012 elections, giving the American intelligence community the distinct feeling that the move was politically motivated. (MILLER: Obama’s Current StrategyIs Doomed To Fail)
Instead of investing any time in negotiating the agreement, the Obama administration used the Maliki regime[‘]s refusal to grant immunity as a political out for withdrawing all U.S. combat forces from Iraq by the end of 2010. That saw the immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces and the end of Operation New Dawn, the successor to Operation Iraqi Freedom. It also saw the rise of ISIS, and brings us to where we are today.
With ISIS on the outskirts of Baghdad today, this is not solely of historical interest. Obama is compounding the mistakes of past years with his half-hearted bombing campaign:
Today, Gen. Lloyd Austin is in command of U.S. Central Command– the U.S. combatant command in charge of fighting all wars in the Middle East, Central Asia and parts of North and East Africa. From that post, he once again recommended to the president that ground forces would be required in order to achieve the White House’s goals, this time against ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
Once again, the president overruled his commanding general and has chosen to use air strikes alone to “destroy” a terrorist army of 30,000.
The president clearly does not think the mission is worth the cost necessary to complete it; but by pursuing his ends without authorizing the necessary means, he is dooming that mission to failure.
Miller winds up his critique with this judgment of the commander-in-chief:
The United States military and intelligence community have learned a lot over the past decade of conflict. Our commander in chief, unfortunately, has not. Since the start of his administration, President Barack Obama has ignored his generals and the intelligence community. Over the past few weeks, he has half-heartedly pursued a strategy that destines us to fail in our mission, and over the past three days, he and his White House have lied to prove otherwise. To those who wear our nation’s uniform, or serve in her intelligence community, that’s insult — and injury.