Thursday, August 11, 2016

Bush/Cheney created ISIS, Obama ignored it

Do you believe the rapid rise in ISIS was President Obama's policy failure or an Intelligence Community failure? free polls
     George W. Bush claims that President Obama led to the rise in ISIS and Donald Trump recently declared Obama to be the “founder of ISIS.” I disagree with both accusations, for it wasn’t Obama’s decision to withdraw troops from Iraq which led to their rise- it was former President Bush’s decision to invade the country that did…he was the one who created ISIS.     
     However, I do criticize President Obama for incorrectly blaming the unforeseen rapid rise in Bush's creation on the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC). In fact, the IC did see it coming long before the current political finger-pointing. They sent out red flares that were ignored by both President Obama and the U.S. Congress. Many of America's intelligence operatives, national security scholars, and journalists who have been watching the progress of ISIS question the president's assertion.

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     Although, in my humble opinion...and in the judgement of many intelligence analysts... Bush and Cheney were the original creators of ISIS, but Obama ignored its ability to bourgeon. In fact, one senior Pentagon official who had been studying the threat posed by Sunni jihadists in Syria, flatly said, "Either the president doesn’t read the intelligence he’s getting, or he’s bullshitting." 
     However, to offer you a complete picture, I devoted the August 14, 2016 issue of "Spy Agency Happenings!" newsletter to list all the players who were involved in the rise of ISIS.   
     President Obama blamed James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, for underestimating the threat posed by the Islamic State. Shortly after Obama threw Clapper under the bus, CIA Director Michael Morell said on CBS This Morning that President Barack Obama was wrong in claiming that bad intelligence was the reason he did not anticipate the speed in which ISIS would capture large portions of Iraq.
     CBS's Norah O'Donnell then posed to Morell, "The president himself admitted over the weekend that the ISIS advance is more rapid than intelligence estimates had forecast. Was this an intelligence failure or a policy failure?"
     Morell replied, "I don't think this was an intelligence failure. This is a classic problem in the intelligence world. There's a difference between strategic warning and tactical warning. There was strategic warning here in the sense that the intelligence community was saying for over a year, year and a half, two years that this group was getting stronger and stronger and stronger."
     The Obama administration, indeed, was surprised and taken off guard by the successful offensive in Iraq by ISIS, and his administration said, at the time, that it's because of a failure by U.S. intelligence agencies to provide adequate warning about the ISIS threat. 
     Shortly after Obama's pejorative declaration, some in America's Intelligence Community (IC) said the reason for the disconnect was due to weak HUMINT (human intelligence) in Iraq and an over-reliance on technical intelligence. However, Congressman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee said the Iraq crisis was a policy blunder, not an intelligence failure, and that there were signs of the ISIS threat, but President Obama ignored them.
     In fact, Rogers said that years ago he was concerned about ISIS and how it was "pooling up" in a dangerous way- building training camps and drawing-in jihadists from around the world. As chairman of the House Intel Committee, he said "We saw all of that happening."
    Fred Fleitz, who served for 25 years with the CIA, the State Department, and the House Intelligence Committee staff, agreed with Congressman Rogers. Fleitz said there was tons of info on the news about the sectarian war brewing in Iraq and that ISIS was gaining strength in both Iraq and Syria. The Intelligence Community, indeed, provided similar classified assessments to U.S. officials.
     Then, it happened. ISIS seized control of Fallujah and parts of the city of Ramadi. Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn issued a public warning about the significance of this development and even testified in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He said "ISIS will attempt to take territory in Iraq and Syria to exhibit its strength in 2014, as demonstrated recently in Ramadi and Fallujah, and the group has the ability to concurrently maintain multiple safe havens in Syria.”
   Several years ago, Fleitz pointed out that Flynn's testimony demonstrated that a top U.S. intelligence official was doing his job and policy makers, including President Obama, were warned about ISIS and the major global security threats it posed. He added that "Some have claimed U.S. intelligence analysis about ISIS could have been better and that we lacked enough human intelligence sources on the ground in Iraq. Secretary of State John Kerry claimed nobody expected ISIS to advance so rapidly against Iraqi forces because we don’t have people embedded in those units." Kerry presumably meant the CIA did not have sources within ISIS.
     So, was it an intelligence failure? Fleitz gave experiential evidence why Kerry may be partially correct: "...gathering credible intelligence in dangerous areas like Iraq and Syria is always limited because there's no U.S. troop presence, high levels of anti-Americanism, and tight-knit Islamist terrorist groups (like ISIS) that are extremely difficult for the CIA to penetrate."
     Fleitz believes that the entire crisis in Iraq and Syria, and the rising power of ISIS is a major U.S. policy failure due to President Obama not leaving a small troop presence behind after the 2011 troop withdrawal and his continual ignoring of the grave threat posed by radical Islam. He believes the Intelligence Community gave Obama excellent analysis about ISIS and the deteriorating situation in Iraq...but he ignored it. 

Robert Morton, M.Ed., Ed.S. is a member of the Association Of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO) and writes the online spy novel series "Corey Pearson- CIA Spymaster in the Caribbean".  The views expressed on this site do not represent those of any organization he is a member of. Contact him on the Secure Contact Form

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