Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq during the surge years, says the terror group that has captured large swaths of Iraqi territory is a threat to the United States and is “more formidable” than al Qaida.
“We would be foolish to think that ISIS will not plan attacks against the West now that it has the space and security to do so,” Crocker wrote Thursday in an op-ed in the the Washington Post, speaking of the formerly al Qaida-linked terror group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. “This is a more formidable force than Osama bin Laden’s group that brought us 9/11.”
Crocker was nominated and confirmed as ambassador to Iraq in 2007 and was widely praised for his work in the country. He stepped down as ambassador shortly after President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009.
ISIS “fighters,” he explained in his op-ed, “are experienced, completely committed to their cause, well armed and well financed.”
“As many as 2,000 of them hold Western passports, including U.S. ones, so there’s no need for visas,” he warned. “This is global jihad, and it will be coming our way.”
Crocker went on to lament America’s failure to continue its intensive diplomatic engagement with Iraq after the success of the surge and argues that it is not too late to reengage on the diplomatic front.
“The surge in U.S. military forces that began in 2007 succeeded in stabilizing the country in large part because it was accompanied by intensive, U.S.-led diplomatic activity that produced essential compromises among Iraq’s Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish communities,” he said. “Yet as we’ve disengaged, the divisions we once bridged have widened and given militants the room they need to maneuver.”
“It is not too late for diplomacy,” he added. “Diplomacy worked at the height of the Iraqi civil war. It can work now. And it can work without boots on the ground.”