Top government officials and military brass repeatedly warned of the consequences of sticking to a timetable on full Iraq War troop withdrawal, but President Obama proceeded with the plan in 2011 anyway.
U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker cautioned against such a move in the years beforehand.
“I am certain that abandoning or drastically curtailing our efforts will bring failure,” he said in 2007. “An Iraq that falls into chaos or civil war will mean massive human suffering, well beyond what has already occurred within Iraq’s borders.”
He later told PBS that he and Gen. David Petraeus refused to talk about timetables during that time.
“To set an arbitrary timeline is just telling the enemy how long he has to wait,” he said.
Adm. Michael Mullen said the consequences of setting a timeline could be “very dangerous” in a 2008 Fox News Sunday interview, and retired Gen. Jack Keane said in 2011 that the Obama administration was “taking steps towards losing this peace” in Iraq with full withdrawal of troops.
“When we walk away at the end of conflicts, it has a tendency not to work,” Keane said.
Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta acknowledged in a CBS interview this month that he was not confident in the Obama administration’s plan to pull out at the time.
“I thought it was important for us to maintain a presence in Iraq,” Panetta said.
The consequences: the rise of the terrorist group ISIL and the full destabilization of the country in the years since. In January, these violent extremists overran Ramadi and Fallujah and have seized large swaths of land in Iraq and Syria.
Obama pawned responsibility off to CIA Director James Clapper and others for underestimating the threat in a recent 60 Minutes interview, but intelligence officials have warned Obama about ISIL for months.
The Daily Beast quoted one former Pentagon official saying, “Either the president doesn’t read the intelligence he’s getting or he’s bullshitting.”
Obama has already tried to rewrite history in the ongoing Iraq debacle by trying to pass responsibility for full troop withdrawal to the Bush administration.
But it was President George W. Bush who may have given the most prescient view about pulling all troops out of Iraq too early, during remarks to the press on July 12, 2007.
“To begin withdrawing before our commanders tell us we’re ready would be dangerous for Iraq, for the region, and for the United States,” Bush said. “It would mean surrendering the future of Iraq to al Qaeda. It’d mean that we’d be risking mass killings on a horrific scale. It’d mean we’d allow the terrorists to establish a safe haven in Iraq to replace the one they lost in Afghanistan. It’d mean we’d be increasing the probability that American troops would have to return at some later date to confront an enemy that is even more dangerous.”