No, really. You’re not misreading the headline.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest Tuesday exculpated Obama’s Iraq strategy and instead blamed Iraqi leaders’ failure to integrate their armed forces for the dramatic loss of Ramadi to ISIS.
What we have indicated all along is that it will require a multi-sectarian force to succeed against ISIL. And the reason for that is Iraq is a very diverse country and they’re going to need every element of their diversity to counter this specific threat.
You’ll recall from even the earliest days of the military campaign that the support of the United States was predicated on the commitment of the Iraqi political leadership and the Iraqi military leadership governing and fighting in a multi-sectarian fashion. And that was true at the beginning in terms of the air support that the United States was prepared to offer; that’s also been true in some of the successful military operations that Iraqi security forces have carried out.
Now, there’s some truth to his, like any bit of spin. It’s not unreasonable to question the commitment of Iraq’s largely Shiite force to defending Sunni areas like Ramadi its ability to relate to the local population. But this isn’t enough to explain the catastrophic failure of Obama’s policy.
Two questions are begged:
1. Why, after six years of training Iraqi forces – and additional years under George W. Bush – do they still suck?
2. Why did Obama allow U.S. forces to leave Iraq before its forces were trained well enough – and, if you like, “diverse” enough?
Diversity explains little of this catastrophe. The Iraqi army was fighting fanatical Sunni’s not far from Bagdad, the capital. They should have had every motivation to prevail. They outnumbered their attackers. And, with U.S. support, they ruled the air.
The Washington Post had a much more conventional explanation for the failure: A lousy military poorly backed by its American allies.
New accounts from fighters in the city indicate that the fall of Ramadi owed as much to the weakness of Iraq’s forces and holes in U.S. strategy as to the Islamic State’s strength.
Soldiers described confusion and a lack of coordination between branches of the security forces as chains of command broke down.
Even Iraq’s Golden Division — a U.S.-trained special-forces unit considered the most capable in the country — suddenly deserted its positions, security officials said.
Planes from the U.S.-led coalition bombed the edges of Ramadi, but there simply weren’t enough airstrikes, Iraqi military officials said.
In the end, it really doesn’t matter what the explanation is. The White House has the attitude of, Well, if the Iraqis won’t defend themselves, that’s their problem.
But ISIS is our problem. It is perhaps the greatest national security threat confronting us.
Withdrawing all our troops from Iraq was a grave mistake. Not sending enough back quickly enough to stomp out this metastasizing Islamist peril was the second mistake.
Every day this war goes on is another day ISIS has to plan a major attack in the United States. Maybe everyone will feel better about it if we know we have Iraqi sectarianism to blame.