Interview with Colonel (Retired) Peter Mansoor, former executive officer to General David Petraeus during the surge in Iraq and now a professor of military history at the Ohio State University about the resurgence of Al Qaeda in Iraq, especially in Fallujah.
For two years Obama has told: “I ended the war in Iraq”. Now Fallujah, where United States fought the bloodiest battle of the Iraq War, has been taken by ISIL islamic terrorists, linked to Al Qaeda. Are right, in your opinion, people who say that Mr. Obama withdrawing military squandered the success achieved by american troops under George W. Bush?
With the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq at the end of 2011, the United States lost much of the political leverage it had once enjoyed vis-a-vis the Iraqi government. Although Iraqi intransigence was largely to blame for the failure in negotiations, the fact is that President Obama never put any political capital into the effort to keep U.S. forces in Iraq. Had they remained, U.S. diplomats and military leaders might have been able to keep Maliki from using Iraqi security forces and courts to attack his political opponents.
The resurgence of Al Qaeda in Iraq is a defeat for the United States and for the Obama administration?
The resurgence of al-Qaeda in Iraq is the result of the sectarian politics of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the unwillingness of the Obama administration to remain engaged in Iraq over the long haul, and the ongoing civil war in Syria. I wouldn’t term it a defeat yet, as the Sunni tribes still view al-Qaeda as a bitter and hated enemy. There is a lot of history yet to be written in this conflict.
What does it mean for a colonel and a soldier like you, a great protagonist of the 2007 Iraq war surge, the fall of Fallujah?
For those of us who served in Iraq and who watched friends and comrades die in an effort to defeat al-Qaeda, the recent resurgence of the terrorists in Iraq is deeply disappointing and frustrating. But it is highly unlikely that al-Qaeda’s takover of Fallujah will be permanent; the organization will be defeated in due course.
Us should come back to Baghdad?
For better or worse, U.S. forces are now out of Iraq and the American people have no desire to see them return.
The Financial Times wrote that the fall of Fallujah humiliates United States. Do you agree?
The events in Fallujah cast a shadow on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of Iraq and his administration, which have failed to take advantage of the manifest successes of the surge of U.S. forces to Iraq in 2007-2008 and the subsequent decline in ethno-sectarian violence in the country.
United States with Obama have changed a lot with regard to foreign policy, especially in Middle East. Do you think it’s a good change or not?
There is only so much the United States – despite its power – can do to influence events in the Middle East. I think the Obama administration made a major mistake in failing to negotiate a status of forces agreement that would have kept U.S. forces in Iraq beyond 2011. The administration also failed to support the opposition to Bashar al-Assad in the early days of the uprising against him and before the influx of jihadists changed the complexion of the Syrian civil war. In other ways, the administration has decided to “lead from behind,” a euphemism for following the lead of others. The result has been a reduction of U.S. influence in the Middle East and a deterioration of the situation in much of the region.