President Barack Obama let al-Qaida bounce back in Iraq because he pulled out U.S. troops in 2011, thereby setting the stage for the development of the Islamic State, said former Ambassador to Iraq Paul Bremer.
The United States had defeated al-Qaida due to the 2007 surge during the Iraq War, a fact that "President Obama admitted himself when he came into office," Bremer told Fox News' "America's Newsroom."
"We beat al-Qaida in Iraq under the surge directed by Gen. Petraeus, and, obviously, authorized by President Bush," Bremer said Thursday. "The problem in Iraq is what has happened in the last two to three years, particularly after we pulled out the troops in 2011, which was a big mistake."
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By retreating from Iraq, the vacuum allowed al-Qaida to regain strength, ultimately spawning the more violent organization formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which now poses a threat to Middle Eastern countries and the West.
Arab countries would be willing to join with the United States to defeat ISIS, Bremer said, but they wanted to see American leadership in the effort.
"A lot of the Arabs in the Middle East have substantial military capabilities. They could be engaged to help fight ISIL. But, they won't do it unless they are persuaded America is prepared to take the lead," he said, using an alternate acronym for the group.
"Saudi Arabia has a quarter-million men under arms. They have an advanced American-supplied air force. There's a lot that other countries in the region could be doing to help, but they won't do it unless they see a clear American commitment."
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