Fox News accused President Obama of ignoring warnings from President Bush about the ramifications of a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, claiming that Bush's warnings in 2007 predicted the rise of the Islamic State extremist group. In reality, Obama followed the extended withdrawal timeline that Bush set in 2008 with the approval of military leaders.
Fox Claims Bush Made A “Visionary Prediction” On Rise Of Islamic State Militants
Fox & Friends Hosts Accused Obama Of Ignoring Bush's Warnings During 2011 Troop Withdrawal. On the September 5 edition of Fox & Friends, co-host Steve Doocy said the 2011 troop withdrawal under Obama “essentially is the reason we are where we are today” with the Islamic State. After playing a clip of Bush speaking in 2007, Doocy called the remarks “visionary” and lamented the idea that his warning went unheeded:
DOOCY: You know, I know that Barack Obama was running for president, where “I'm going to end the war and we're going to come home” and Americans wanted that. We were all war-weary at that point back in 2007. But the way he pulled out of Iraq essentially is the reason we are where we are today. And so, it was so -- it was such a visionary prediction or a cautionary warning that President Bush made there from the podium in 2007. A lot of people are probably scratching their heads going,“I wish we would have listened to him.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 9/5/14]
Fox Host Megyn Kelly: “We Are Reminded Of Warnings We Heard Back In 2007.” On the September 4 edition of The Kelly File, host Megyn Kelly said that Bush had given an “eerie” warning that outlined “point by point by point what we are seeing today” in Iraq:
KELLY: As we track these new terror concerns at home and overseas, we are reminded of warnings we heard back in 2007. America was fighting the Iraq War. President Bush had just ordered U.S. troops to surge in Iraq. And critics were demanding that the U.S. withdraw the troops, when President Bush issued this -- frighteningly accurate, as it turns out -- assessment of what would happen if we did that.
KELLY: How eerie. I mean, it's point by point by point what we are seeing today, Mark. [Fox News, The Kelly File, 9/4/14]
Bush Was Warning That Withdrawal In 2007 Was Premature And Called For Military Approval Of Eventual Pullout Plan
Bush Said Iraq Was Too Unstable For 2007 Withdrawal And Would Consult Military Leaders On A Longer Withdrawal Plan. The comments Fox highlighted were pulled from a statement Bush made in 2007 about the troop surge in Iraq and continued engagement in the country. He warned that Iraq was then too unstable for full withdrawal and that it was important that military “commanders tell us we are ready” to avoid allowing “terrorists to establish a safe haven in Iraq.” Bush said he would “make a decision” about the withdrawal process after consultations with military leaders:
BUSH: We'll also have a clearer picture of how the new strategy is unfolding, and be in a better position to judge where we need to make any adjustments.
I will rely on General Petraeus to give me his recommendations for the appropriate troop levels in Iraq. I will discuss the recommendation with the secretary of defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I will continue consultations with members of the United States Congress from both sides of the aisle. And then I'll make a decision.
I know some in Washington would like us to start leaving Iraq now. To begin withdrawing before our commanders tell us we're ready would be dangerous for Iraq, for the region and for the United States. It would mean surrendering the future of Iraq to Al Qaida.
BUSH: It'd mean that we'd be risking mass killings on a horrific scale. It'd mean we'd allow the terrorists to establish a safe haven in Iraq to replace the one they lost in Afghanistan. It'd mean we'd be increasing the probability that American troops would have to return at some later date to confront an enemy that is even more dangerous. [The Washington Post, 7/12/07]
Bush's Status Of Forces Agreement For Iraq Scheduled Removal Of All Troops “No Later Than December 31, 2011”
Bush Set A Timetable For Withdrawal “No Later Than December 31, 2011.” A 2008 Status Of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed by Bush set a deadline for withdrawing from Iraq “no later than December 31, 2011” (emphasis added):
Withdrawal of the United States Forces from Iraq
Recognizing the performance and increasing capacity of the Iraqi Security Forces, the assumption of full security responsibility by those Forces, and based upon the strong relationship between the Parties, an agreement on the following has been reached:
1. All the United States Forces shall withdraw from all Iraqi territory no later than December 31, 2011.
2. All United States combat forces shall withdraw from Iraqi cities, villages, and localities no later than the time at which Iraqi Security Forces assume full responsibility for security in an Iraqi province, provided that such withdrawal is completed no later than June 30, 2009. [U.S.-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement, 11/17/08, accessed 9/5/14 via The New York Times]
Obama Followed 2008 SOFA Agreement And Advice Of Military Leaders
ABC News: “Obama Announces Complete Drawdown Of U.S. Troops From Iraq” By End Of 2011. ABC News reported that Obama followed through with Bush's withdrawal timeline in 2011. Administration officials said this decision was in line with the Bush administration's plan and that experts had determined that “Iraqis were ready and they proved they could fully take over their security”:
“This deal was cut by the Bush administration, the agreement was always that at end of the year we would leave, but the Iraqis wanted additional troops to stay,” an administration official said. “We said here are the conditions, including immunities. But the Iraqis because of a variety of reasons wanted the troops and didn't want to give immunity.”
Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough told reporters that the U.S. assessment determined that Iraqis were ready and they proved they could fully take over their security. The U.S. will have a robust diplomatic presence and continue to train Iraqi forces, he said, but it will be similar to what it has in other countries. [ABC News, 10/21/11]
Defense Secretary Gates: Military Was “Deeply Involved” In Developing Withdrawal Strategy. Before Obama's confirmation of the final drawdown, then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that “the military was deeply involved in the development of the president's strategy and signed on to the president's strategy” adding that, “with everything we understand right now, is still the right decision.” [Defense.gov, 6/24/10]
Adm. Mike Mullen: “This Is Still The Right Decision.” Adm. Mike Mullen, then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that “with everything we understand right now, is still the right decision.” [Defense.gov, 6/24/10]
ISAF Commander: I “Support And Agree” With Beginning “Responsible Drawdown” July 2011. Former commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Gen. David Petraeus agreed “with the July 2011 date described by the president.” He said (via Nexis):
PETRAEUS: I did support and agree at the end of the president's decision-making process last fall with the July 2011 date described by the president as the point at which a process begins to transition security tasks to Afghan forces at a rate to be determined by conditions at that time.
I also agreed with July 2011 as the date at which a responsible drawdown of the surge forces is scheduled to begin at a rate to be determined by conditions at the time. And I did believe there was value in sending a message of urgency, which is how I interpreted July 2011 as -- announced at West Point -- as well as the message of substantial commitment, the considerable additional forces that the president ordered as well as additional civilians' authorization for extra ANSF and additional NATO forces as well. [House Armed Services Committee, 6/16/10, via Media Matters]
The Islamic State Traces Its Roots To The Iraq War
The New York Times: Environment Created By Iraq Invasion Helped Islamic State Build Leadership And Consolidate Military Expertise. The New York Times outlined how some of the Islamic State's success in Iraq and the region to can be traced back to the conditions created by the initial invasion of Iraq. The group's leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, met many of his top deputies while in U.S. custody and built the group's leadership from former military officials who served under Saddam Hussein. The military experience of the Islamic State's leadership also helps explain the group's gains in Iraq. According to the Times, “ISIS is in effect a hybrid of terrorists and an army”:
At the top the organization is the self-declared leader of all Muslims, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, a radical chief executive officer of sorts, who handpicked many of his deputies from among the men he met while a prisoner in American custody at the Camp Bucca detention center a decade ago.
He had a preference for military men, and so his leadership team includes many officers from Saddam Hussein's long-disbanded army.
They include former Iraqi officers like Fadel al-Hayali, the top deputy for Iraq, who once served Mr. Hussein as a lieutenant colonel, and Adnan al-Sweidawi, a former lieutenant colonel who now heads the group's military council.
The pedigree of its leadership, outlined by an Iraqi who has seen documents seized by the Iraqi military, as well as by American intelligence officials, helps explain its battlefield successes: Its leaders augmented traditional military skill with terrorist techniques refined through years of fighting American troops, while also having deep local knowledge and contacts. ISIS is in effect a hybrid of terrorists and an army.
Michael Knights, an Iraq analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said it was no surprise that so many officers from Mr. Hussein's era had joined ISIS. Discontent in the military was widespread near the end of his rule, and underground Islamist movements were gaining strength, even inside the military, he said.
Political changes after the American invasion accelerated their rise. Members of Mr. Hussein's Baath Party were barred from government positions, and the political dominance of Iraq's Shiite majority made many Sunnis feel disenfranchised.
“After 2003, what did these guys have to do but get more radical?” Mr. Knights said.
For those who had served in Mr. Hussein's staunchly secular army, that transformation was complete by the time they joined ISIS. “There is no one in Baghdadi's state who is not a believer,” Mr. Alhashimi said. [The New York Times, 8/27/14]