NORFOLK, Va. — In the third presidential debate on Monday both candidates must address the widespread security concerns that have presented themselves in the Arab world in recent times, says a former military commander.
“We are in a much more dangerous situation today in the Arab world than at any time,” said Lt. Colonel Steve Russell, a former U.S. Army officer who played a key role in the capture of Saddam Hussein and author of the book We Got Him which details that capture, “and I don’t think that was created by our policies in Afghanistan and Iraq.”
“My question to the president would be, if al Qaeda is on the run, are they running to our embassies?” Russell said.
“It has absolutely unraveled because of delays in Libya, mishandlings in Egypt, absolute non-appearance in Syria, turning our back on Israel,” Russell told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
“That’s a dangerous cocktail, and I want to know how the President is going to fix that,” Russell added, “and I would like to know Governor Romney’s vision for fixing that after November 6.”
“You had contained enemies, such as Libya and Syria that may not have ever been on your side but they also didn’t want to do anything to upset the United States,” Russell said. “That’s not true anymore.”
The September 11, 2012 attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans has put President Obama under fire, in particular from Republicans and the Romney campaign.
“How in the world would you send any United States ambassador into any situation in an unarmored vehicle, protected by two people, on September 11th in a volatile situation? Mr. President what is up with that? The American people would like to know.”
The U.S. recently sent troops to the Syria-Jordan border to prevent the violence already plaguing Syria from spreading into Jordan — a strong U.S. ally. Under Assad, Syria has not been friendly to U.S. security interests, said Russell.
“By what scenario where Assad stays in power does the United States benefit? I don’t think there is one,” Russell said.
“And then you’ve got staunch allies, like Israel and Egypt,” he added. “We’ve thrown 40 years of great Egypt policy under the bus, and we’re turning our back on an ally that we’ve stood by in Israel for a long time.”
Relations between the U.S. and Egypt have been strained since the fall of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak last year, and relations were further strained after Egyptian demonstrators overran the U.S. embassy the same day as the Libya attacks.
“That may not be a concern of every American, but I tell you what, it’s a concern of every soldier because if Egypt becomes militant, they have the capacity to cause a lot of problems,” Russell said.