20 July 2019
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Obama to blame for Iraq mess: Panetta

Sunday, 12 October 2014 12:00
In his new book, Panetta says Obama’s drawdawn of troops is to blame for the rise of ISIS. Photo: Associated Press. In his new book, Panetta says Obama’s drawdawn of troops is to blame for the rise of ISIS. Photo: Associated Press.

-Rudaw, NEW YORK – US President Barack Obama has come under fresh attack over the rise of Islamic State (ISIS) militants, with a former defence chief accusing him of botching plans to leave some US troops in war-torn Iraq in 2011.

In his memoir, ‘Worthy Fights’, former Defence Secretary and CIA director Leon Panetta accuses Obama of not pushing hard enough to keep US forces in Iraq after the December 2011 drawdown – leaving the country vulnerable to IS jihadists.

“It was clear to me, and many others, that withdrawing all our forces would endanger the fragile stability then barely holding Iraq together,” Panetta says in an excerpt from his book, which was released this week.

The US withdrew its last forces from Iraq on December 18, after failing to agree on a continued US security and training presence with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Washington left just 150 troops attached to the US embassy.

“We had leverage. We could, for instance, have threatened to withdraw reconstruction aid to Iraq,” Panetta said. But the White House was “so eager to rid itself of Iraq that it was willing to withdraw rather than lock in arrangements that would preserve our influence and interests.”

Panetta’s comments follow a similarly stinging attack on Obama from his former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, over failing to support moderate Syrian rebels in their fight against President Bashar al-Assad, which began in 2011.

Last month, Clinton, a heavily-tipped candidate for US president in 2016, said the White House “failed to help build up a credible fighting force” among moderate and secular Syrians, leaving a “big vacuum, which the jihadists have now filled”.

Warplanes from the US and its allies continued striking IS in Iraq and Syria on Wednesday and Thursday and Friday, focussing on the north Syrian town of Kobane, where Kurdish fighters are holding out against an Islamic State advance.

More than 400 people have died during a three-week ISIS advance and 180,000 civilians, mostly Kurds, have fled to Turkey. The US warns that airstrikes alone will not save Kobane, while Turkey refuses to send in its troops.

Obama says ISIS, which is also known as ISIL, can be routed with airstrikes and by arming Kurds, Iraqis and moderate Syrian opposition fighters as ground forces. Critics say he over-depends on air power, lacks reliable allies and has no solution to Syria’s civil war.

As fighting between Islamic State (IS) and Kurdish forces in Kobane grew fiercer this week, US officials warned that air strikes alone will not save those defending the town.

“Airstrikes alone are not going to do this,” Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said, as Islamist militiamen advanced into the Kurdish town, close to Turkey’s border. “They're not going to save the town of Kobane.”

Read more: http://rudaw.net/english/world/101020141

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