Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted that she “could not have predicted” the effectiveness of the al-Qaida-affiliated terrorist group that seized control of two major Iraqi cities this week.
The Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), which has pledged allegiance to al-Qaida since 2004, captured the western Iraqi cities of Tikrit and Mosul, expanding its influence across the entire Sunni-dominated western region of Iraq in addition to Syria — where it remains one of the strongest rebel factions fighting dictator Bashar al-Assad. The group, led by enigmatic terrorist Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, evolved out of al-Qaida’s Bush-era presence in Iraq, adopting a version of its current name as early as 2006.
Clinton, the Obama administration’s first Secretary of State and a presumptive 2016 presidential candidate, admitted that she underestimated ISIS in an interview Thursday at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City.
“So this is not just a Syrian problem anymore,” Clinton said. “I never thought it was just a Syrian problem. I thought it was a regional problem. I could not have predicted, however, the extent to which ISIS could be effective in seizing cities in Iraq and trying to erase boundaries to create an Islamic state. That’s why it’s a wicked problem.”
Clinton also notably failed to classify the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram as a terrorist group during her time at the State Department, which made it more difficult to prosecute the group that recently abducted a classroom full of Nigerian schoolgirls.
ISIS wants to create an Islamic caliphate state in Iraq and Syria, similar to the vision espoused by the late al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden. The group has been effective in riling up Sunnis in the region against Sh’ia Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki and also Shi’ia leader al-Assad in Syria. The group recently seized the Iraqi city of Fallujah, where U.S. Marines won arguably their most important Iraq War victory. ISIS hangs the black flag of al-Qaida over the cities that it conquers.
U.S. military leaders predicted as early as 2006, during a dismal period for al-Qaida and prior to Clinton’s term at the State Department, that al-Qaida would re-generate in Iraq.
“If the Iraqi security forces are not able to put pressure on them, they could regenerate,” said Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan in 2006.
Though Clinton claimed inability to have predicted the group’s rise, Republicans are placing the blame for ISIS squarely on the shoulders of the Obama administration, which withdrew all U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011 — while Clinton was Secretary of State — without locking down a status of forces agreement.
“Regrettably, the current administration’s failure to consummate an agreement to leave a residual force for training and counter insurgency operations has directly contributed to the deterioration in security conditions in Iraq and a deterioration in military capability,” said New Mexico Republican Senate candidate Allen Weh, a retired Marine Colonel and Iraq War veteran, in a statement provided to The Daily Caller.
“In 2008 our progress was impressive,” Weh continued. “There was no question then that this Army was on track to become the stabilizing force it was intended to be for both the country and the region.”
(h/t Joe Walsh)