Two years ago during his re-election campaign, President Barack Hussein Obama made a bold statement addressing an all-fired up group of his supporters in Green Bay, Wisconsin where he claimed that “Al-Qaeda has been decimated.”
In fact, ever since the September 2012 Benghazi attacks the President has touted al-Qaeda’s demise over 32 times. Assuring the American people that their most-feared enemies are finally gone.
Today however, reports tell of a different story and it seems Pres. Obama may have to eat his words.
Almost eleven years since the invasion of Iraq, the fall of the Ba’ath Party and the capture and execution of Saddam Hussein Iraq is now starting to fall back into the clutches of brutal terrorists.
The worst part is that this time it is not al-Qaeda leading the assault, but an off-shoot of the group which the former has distanced itself from for being too extreme – even for their own standards.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant announced their victory over Iraqi security forces in the city of Mosul on June 10. With the latter being Iraq’s second largest city after Baghdad, this event symbolizes a major setback in international efforts to stabilize the Middle East.
In the aftermath of their city’s downfall, almost half a million residents fled Mosul to escape the expectedly harsh rule of these Islamic hardliners. Even the governor of the province of Nineveh has evacuated and declared that the Iraqi army suffered a ‘major collapse’.
Major collapse could also be used to describe the state of the region under President Obama’s foreign policy in the Middle East. Not only is a civil war looming in Iraq but one has already blown out of proportion in Syria. The group aims to establish an Islamic caliphate or empire in the region, and with the significant gains in territory they have made that ambition is not far from being a reality.
Contrast this to the advance of Coalition troops under the previous administration and under the command of General Petraeus, and we can really see a deficiency in Obama’s strategy in Iraq.
A month after U.S. airstrikes hit Iraq, the capital city of Baghdad was captured. A month after that President George W. Bush announced major operations in Iraq had ended and victory was achieved. By the end of that year, Saddam Hussein was captured by American forces.
The major city of Fallujah was liberated in 2004, albeit losing the lives of 95 American soldiers in the process. In January of this year however, that city fell back into the hands of the insurgents – rendering the cost of that battle a decade ago meaningless.
Although the war was anything but bloodless, as US Armed Forces occupied Iraq longer civilian casualties sharply declined. It went from 32,000 in 2006 to 5,000 casualties in 2009. Not to mention, United States intervention in Iraq put an end to the genocide of the Kurds who were targeted under Saddam Hussein’s regime.
The total troop pull-out in 2011 was supposed to leave renewed optimism to the Iraqi people. A fresh breath and a clean plate to rebuild their nation. What instead was left was a power vacuum militants were waiting to pounce on.
President Obama never considered such a possibility, claiming instead during a speech addressing the pull-out that the US is ‘leaving behind a stable and self-reliant Iraq.’ Three years later and that rhetoric would prove to be farcical.
The scenario we see today, instead of a self-reliant and independent Iraq, is a goldmine that’s there for the taking – and fanatical militants are raring to snatch it.
Mosul remains the militants’ biggest step towards realizing their dream of establishing the Caliphate, a city 400 km. from the capital city. The ISIL now have Tikrit as well, Saddam’s hometown, and a mere 100 miles from Baghdad.
And let’s not forget they also have captured Fallujah, a city just 43 miles away from the capital itself.
It’s a no-brainer what city the terrorists have on their sights next. Baghdad is the seat of government and overwhelming is the country’s main city. If that falls then symbolically, the entire Iraq has fallen as well.
President Obama has always boasted victory over terrorists and an overall “mission accomplished”. But now his tone has changed – he has told the press he is contemplating on intervening once more in Iraq. He has ruled out deploying ground troops, opting instead for airstrikes.
The President’s party is no fan of war, and intervening in another nation’s affairs will certainly not be popular among the base of their voters. But this is a step that is drastically needed, for the sake of preventing a rogue state from emerging and for two full members of the UN to disintegrate.
Obama proudly declared two years ago that the terrorists were on the run. He was right after all. But where they were running to exactly is perhaps different from what he had hoped for; for the insurgents are running towards Baghdad – and time is running out.