The White House's decision to complete the final withdrawal of all American troops from Iraq in 2011 set the stage for the current unrest, according to Gen. Michael Hayden, the former director of both the National Security Agency and the CIA.
"We took the training wheels off the new Iraqi government far too early," Hayden said on Newsmax TV
's "America's Forum" program.
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"President Bush used to huddle with [Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki] about every two weeks in a video conference, doing a lot of coaching and mentoring," Hayden said. "That stopped when President Obama came in. He didn't want to do that."
In 2008, President George W. Bush and and Iraqi government signed the U.S.-Iraq Status of Forces Agreement, setting a start and end date for the U.S. withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
Without ground troops, the United States' ability to gather intelligence became severely handicapped, Hayden said.
"When you don't have a footprint throughout the country, remember, it's not just the military that left, we dramatically cut back our diplomatic presence as well, deciding because of security reasons that we would not have consulates in a variety of Iraqi cities," Hayden said. "So we just have fewer platforms from which to observe what's going on in Iraq."
Hayden said funding for the Sunni militant organization ISIS — the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria — is coming from other Gulf states, such as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates. That backing is in addition to the purported $500 million ISIS netted in a bank robbery along with all of the U.S. munitions, Humvees, and other equipment it has stolen.
Despite ISIS' deep pockets, Hayden said the organization does not have the depth to sustain a presence over the entire Sunni areas of Iraq.
"They have very limited capacity beyond the improvised explosive device to do much inside the Shia or Kurdish areas of Iraq," he said, noting his belief that it will be very difficult, "politically or militarily," for the Iraqi government to recapture the cities ISIS has already taken.
"And that's a very dark scenario," Hayden said.
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