Friday, June 13, 2014

The fall of Mosul is as big as Russia's seizure of Crimea.

  • The fall of Mosul, Iraq, to al Qaeda terrorists this week is as big in its implications as Russia's annexation of Crimea. But from the Obama presidency, barely a peep.
  • Barack Obama is fiddling while the world burns. Iraq, Pakistan, Ukraine, Russia, Nigeria, Kenya, Syria. These foreign wildfires, with more surely to come, will burn unabated for two years until the United States has a new president. The one we've got can barely notice or doesn't care.
    Last month this is what Barack Obama said to the 1,064 graduating cadets at the U.S. Military Academy: "Four and a half years later, as you graduate, the landscape has changed. We have removed our troops from Iraq. We are winding down our war in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda's leadership on the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan has been decimated."
    That let-the-sunshine-in line must have come back to the cadets, when news came Sunday that the Pakistani Taliban, who operate in that border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan, had carried out a deadly assault on the main airport in Karachi, population 9.4 million. To clarify, the five Taliban Mr. Obama exchanged for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl are Afghan Taliban who operate on the other side of the border.

    Within 24 hours of the Taliban attack in Pakistan, Boko Haram's terrorists in Nigeria kidnapped 20 more girls, adding to the 270 still-missing—"our girls," as they were once known.
    Then Mosul fell. The al Qaeda affiliate known as ISIS stormed and occupied the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, population 1.8 million and not far from Turkey, Syria and Iran. It took control of the airport, government buildings, and reportedly looted some $430 million from Mosul's banks. ISIS owns Mosul.
    Iraq's army in tatters, ISIS rolled south Wednesday and took the city of Tikrit. It is plausible that this Islamic wave will next take Samarra and then move on to Baghdad, about 125 miles south of Tikrit. They will surely stop outside Baghdad, but that would be enough. Iraq will be lost.
    Now if you want to vent about " George Bush's war," be my guest. But George Bush isn't president anymore. Barack Obama is because he wanted the job and the responsibilities that come with the American presidency. Up to now, burying those responsibilities in the sand has never been in the job description.
    Mosul's fall matters for what it reveals about a terrorism whose threat Mr. Obama claims he has minimized. For starters, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) isn't a bunch of bug-eyed "Mad Max" guys running around firing Kalashnikovs. ISIS is now a trained and organized army.
    The seizures of Mosul and Tikrit this week revealed high-level operational skills. ISIS is using vehicles and equipment seized from Iraqi military bases. Normally an army on the move would slow down to establish protective garrisons in towns it takes, but ISIS is doing the opposite, by replenishing itself with fighters from liberated prisons.

    An astonishing read about this group is on the website of the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War. It is an analysis of a 400-page report, "al-Naba," published by ISIS in March. This is literally a terrorist organization's annual report for 2013. It even includes "metrics," detailed graphs of its operations in Iraq as well as in Syria.

    One might ask: Didn't U.S. intelligence know something like Mosul could happen? They did. The February 2014 "Threat Assessment" by the Pentagon's Defense Intelligence Agency virtually predicted it: "AQI/ISIL [aka ISIS] probably will attempt to take territory in Iraq and Syria . . . as demonstrated recently in Ramadi and Fallujah." AQI (al Qaeda in Iraq), the report says, is exploiting the weak security environment "since the departure of U.S. forces at the end of 2011." But to have suggested any mitigating steps to this White House would have been pointless. It won't listen.
    In March, Gen. James Mattis, then head of the U.S. Central Command, told Congress he recommended the U.S. keep 13,600 support troops in Afghanistan; he was known not to want an announced final withdrawal date. On May 27, President Obama said it would be 9,800 troops—for just one year. Which guarantees that the taking of Mosul will be replayed in Afghanistan.
    Let us repeat the most quoted passage in former Defense Secretary Robert Gates's memoir, "Duty." It describes the March 2011 meeting with Mr. Obama about Afghanistan in the situation room. "As I sat there, I thought: The president doesn't trust his commander, can't stand Karzai, doesn't believe in his own strategy and doesn't consider the war to be his," Mr. Gates wrote. "For him, it's all about getting out."
    The big Obama bet is that Americans' opinion-polled "fatigue" with the world (if not his leadership) frees him to create a progressive domestic legacy. This Friday Mr. Obama is giving a speech to the Sioux Indians in Cannon Ball, N.D., about "jobs and education."
    Meanwhile, Iraq may be transforming into (a) a second Syria or (b) a restored caliphate. Past some point, the world's wildfires are going to consume the Obama legacy. And leave his successor a nightmare.
    Thanks NG

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