After President Obama and his team failed to negotiate a renewal of America’s status of forces agreement with the new government of Iraq, it expired at the end of 2011. As the last American troops left that country in December that year, the president marked “the end of the war,” saying it would “soon belong to history”:
Indeed, everything that American troops have done in Iraq – all the fighting and all the dying, the bleeding and the building, and the training and the partnering – all of it has led to this moment of success….
And around the globe, as we draw down in Iraq, we have gone after al Qaeda so that terrorists who threaten America will have no safe haven.
A month later, his 2012 State of the Union address was full of election-year cheer:
Most of al Qaeda’s top lieutenants have been defeated….
Ending the Iraq war has allowed us to strike decisive blows against our enemies. From Pakistan to Yemen, the al Qaeda operatives who remain are scrambling[.]
“Al Qaeda is on the run” became a familiar phrase by November 6, 2012. Fast forward to the present year:
- January 3: “A rejuvenated al-Qaeda-affiliated force asserted control over the western Iraqi city of Fallujah on Friday, raising its flag over government buildings and declaring an Islamic state[.]”
- June 10: “Insurgents seized control of most of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Tuesday in a powerful demonstration of the threat posed by a rapidly expanding extremist army….Fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an al-Qaeda offshoot, overran the western bank of the city overnight[.]”
- June 11: “Al-Qaida-inspired militants pushed deeper into Iraq's Sunni heartland Wednesday, swiftly conquering Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit.”
- Today, June 12: “Iraq was on the brink of disintegration Thursday as al-Qaeda-inspired fighters swept through northern Iraq toward Baghdad and Kurdish soldiers seized the city of Kirkuk without a fight.”
For months, questions have been raised about what the Obama administration is doing to prevent Iraq from slipping into chaos. But as Speaker Boehner said this morning, it seems President Obama has been caught “taking a nap.” In January, with major signs of trouble evident, Speaker Boehner said, “There are things that we can do to help the Iraqis that do not involve putting U.S. troops on the ground.” Now, it’s more true than ever that “We must maintain a long-term commitment to a successful outcome” in Iraq.
So what is the Obama administration’s plan to protect and preserve American troops’ hard-won gains? Confronted with that question just this afternoon at the White House, the president talked for nearly five minutes. The takeaway? After “months” of “watching” the situation, he’s not ruling anything out.
Meanwhile, under the new “Obama Doctrine,” five top Taliban commanders have been set free from Guantanamo. Libya is a lawless haven for jihadists. Extremists in Syria fight on. Threats in Africa and Pakistan multiply. And in Iraq, the spawn of al Qaeda is on the run. Toward Baghdad.