Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, who is just weeks away from retirement and has nothing to lose, told Fox News on Tuesday that, yes, President Obama’s pulling the troops out of Iraq in 2011 helped lead to the rise of ISIS and the destabilization of Iraq.
You can probably expect the White House to “clarify” the general’s comments soon.
Odierno, the Army general who spent the longest amount of time in Iraq, said of the fall of large portions of Iraqi territory, “It’s frustrating to watch it. I go back to the work we did in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 and we got it to a place that was really good. Violence was low, the economy was growing, politics looked like it was heading in the right direction.”
In Odierno’s view, the rise of ISIS and loss of Iraqi territory was not inevitable but was the result of President Obama abandoning the country to its fate, though the general was more politic about how he phrased it.
“If we had stayed a little more engaged, I think maybe it might have been prevented,” he said. “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.”
Back in 2009, after Obama’s installation as Oval Office occupant, Odierno strongly recommended keeping U.S. troops in Iraq after the 2011 date for pulling them out. The Obama Administration ignored Odierno’s recommendation, pretending publicly that a forces agreement signed in the last days of the Bush Administration tied Obama’s hands when all the president had to do was pick up the phone and order new negotiations.
When asked directly whether the pullout was a mistake, Odierno said, “I think it would have been good for us to stay.”
Odierno also talked about the Obama Administration’s cutting of troops, saying it has brought the Army perilously close to not being able to do its job.
In 2010, the Army had 570,000 troops. It now has 490,000 troops and just recently announced plans to eliminate 40,000 more.
Odierno said that two years ago he thought the Army could perform with 450,000 troops but the international situation has changed.
He said, “Two years ago, we didn’t think we had a problem in Europe. … [Now] Russia is reasserting themselves. We didn’t think we’d have a problem again in Iraq and ISIS has emerged. … So, with Russia becoming more of a threat, with ISIS becoming more of a threat, in my mind, we are on a dangerous balancing act right now with capability. … When we go to 450, we are going to have to stop doing something.”
The reduction also makes the United States more vulnerable in the eyes of its enemies.
“I believe they question whether we will be able to respond and so they’re willing to take maybe a bit more risk than they might have just a few years ago,” he said.
When he first ran for president, Obama made clear that he was all about “remaking America.” As his Administration staggers into its last 18 months, he has kept his promise and the world’s bad guys must be very grateful for it.
America might not have always been liked around the world under President Bush, but at least there was no serious question about its military strength and the president’s intention to stand up to any enemy.
Obama has weakened America’s military and turned its international image into that of a milksop — and an untrustworthy milksop at that, as Israel has learned.
The largest part of the next president’s job will have to be to undo the damage Obama has caused .