As a citizen, retired Marine, and veteran of the Iraq conflict, I view the situation in Iraq with great concern. I spent three tours totaling 27 months in Iraq, the vast majority in Anbar Province. During my second tour in the fall of 2004, I commanded a battalion during clearing operations in Fallujah. During my final tour in 2007, I was the intelligence director in Anbar with responsibility for targeting Al Qaeda and its affiliates in an area stretching from Syria to Baghdad. When I returned from Iraq in February 2008, I felt that Al Qaeda, if not dead, was mortally wounded. My thinking was that with continued partnership with the U.S. military and intelligence services, the Iraqi government would be able to effectively deal with the diminished extremist threat.
Our President, however, in an effort to placate his base and make good on his campaign promise to get us out of Iraq at all cost, made a strategic error in not solidifying a strategic basing or Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government. Military organizations take a long time to build and without continued training, mentoring, and partnership with a small residual U.S. force, the Iraqi military actually regressed as an effective fighting organization.
In January 2014, the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), an extremist organization so ruthless as to have been disenfranchised by Al Qaeda, seized control of Fallujah and Ramadi in western Iraq. I contacted both of our Senators and our Congressman expressing concern about this national security threat and the waste in blood and treasure caused by the ISIS resurgence. I received a mix of democratic talking points and polite canned responses for my efforts.
Fast forward to June 2014, and the ISIS has now seized Mosul, the second largest city on Iraq, Tikrit, Samarra, and the Baiji Oil refinery, the largest in Iraq. The ISIS and the Syrian al Nusra Front have also completely erased the Iraqi and Syrian border in the western desert, effectively establishing an extremist Caliphate stretching from central Syria to the western suburbs of Baghdad.
Many would wave off my concerns thinking that it’s a long way away and no longer concerns us. You would be sadly mistaken to believe that. I know this enemy. He is smart, dangerous, brutal, and totally committed. They hate us and they will come for us here in the homeland. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but come for us they will.
Many of a more liberal persuasion would argue that we shouldn’t have been in Iraq in the first place. While they might be right, the argument is also irrelevant. We are where we are. The current administration’s idea of foreign policy as it relates to extremists threats in Iraq and Afghanistan seems to be to throw up the white flag of surrender wherever confronted with the black flag of Al Qaeda. The administration seems completely paralyzed and unable to formulate a coherent response to the current crisis. Our idea of action is for the State Department to send a tweet. The Iraqis don’t need tweets, they need steel on target and a President with enough steel in his spine to put it there.