President Obama’s misguided decision to pull U.S. troops out of Iraq early was a mistake that led directly to the rise of the Islamic State, the Army’s retiring chief of staff told Fox News Wednesday.
In an exclusive interview with Fox News, four-star Gen. Ray Odierno painted a bleak picture for America’s future efforts in the Middle East.
“It’s frustrating to watch it,” Odierno said. “I think it would have been good for us to stay.”
Odierno had spent more time in Iraq than any other U.S. Army general, reported Fox. He said Iraq had been relatively stable with a promising outlook before the Obama administration ordered troops to pull out of the country in 2011.
“I go back to the work we did in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2010 and we got it to a place that was really good,” Odierno said. “Violence was low, the economy was growing, politics looked like it was heading in the right direction.”
All that changed when Obama pulled out U.S. troops to satisfy his liberal political base at home. The Islamic State terrorists emerged, taking hold of large swaths of the region.
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“If we had stayed a little more engaged, I think maybe it might have been prevented,” Odierno said.
“I’ve always believed the United States played the role of honest broker between all the groups and when we pulled ourselves out, we lost that role.”
Odierno said not only was his recommendation to keep 30,000 to 35,000 troops in Iraq ignored, but he was never contacted for advice after Mosul fell to ISIS.
“All my work was given to [Joint Chiefs] Chairman [Martin] Dempsey,” Odierno told Fox. “I never talked directly to the president about it at that time, but I talked to the secretary of defense and I’m sure he relayed all of my thoughts.”
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Odierno said with more cuts to Army troops underway, his concern about the U.S.’s foreign policy is growing. He noted that enemies of freedom are emboldened by America’s shrinking military.
“Two years ago, we didn’t think we had a problem in Europe. [Now] Russia is reasserting themselves,” Odierno said. “We didn’t think we’d have a problem again in Iraq and ISIS has emerged.
“So, with Russia becoming more of a threat, with ISIS becoming more of a threat, in my mind, we are on a dangerous balancing act right now with capability.”
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