Petraeus: ‘Real cause’ of ISIS was Iraqi government

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Former CIA Director David Petraeus appears to disagree with GOP nominee Donald Trump’s claim that President Obama is to blame for the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). 

“I’m nonpartisan, I’m not going to comment on a particular candidate’s statement — I will comment on the facts,” Petraeus said Wednesday evening on PBS’s “Charlie Rose.” 

{mosads}He said the “real cause” of ISIS was the alienation of the Sunni Arab community in Iraq under then-Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, which created an opportunity for the Sunni extremist group to win support in Sunni areas when the group stormed across Iraq in 2014.  

Petraeus also appeared to repudiate the Republican presidential nominee’s once-stated view that the U.S. should let parties warring for control of Syria fight it out among themselves.  

“Before you say, ‘Well let them fight it out, this is a Middle East problem, you know, they’ve never gotten along together,’ — let’s remember that this is a region that doesn’t play by Las Vegas rules. What happens in the Middle East does not stay in the Middle East,” he said. 

“It spews out, and in this case the tsunami of refugees from Syria into Europe has caused the most significant domestic political challenges for the leaders of our most important European allies and partners that they’ve experienced in decades.”

Trump and Republican critics have blamed the president for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011, allowing al Qaeda to grow and fostering the development of ISIS. 

Although the Bush administration had negotiated for U.S. troops to withdraw by December 2011, the Obama administration did not succeed in clinching a deal with the Iraqi government to allow U.S. troops to stay longer. 

However, Petraeus, who served as a commander of the Iraq War and is credited with turning the tide, did say he would “have liked to have seen 10,000 troops stay [in Iraq], without question.” 

He said while that might not have stopped Maliki from sectarian behavior that led to the marginalizing of Sunni Arabs, it would have allowed U.S. forces to come back in quickly when ISIS came onto the scene. 

“What it would have done is we would have had bases, infrastructure, communications, satellite shots, all the rest of that, so that we could have very rapidly reinserted forces into Iraq when it was clear that we needed to support the Iraqi Security Forces to prevent the Islamic State from taking Baghdad, Erbil and so forth,” he said. 

Petraeus also criticized the Obama administration for taking too long to do something about ISIS. 

“Time matters when you’re fighting an enemy like the Islamic State,” he said. “The sooner you can show that the Islamic State is a loser, is the sooner it is no longer as effective.”  

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