The U.S. military set up Iraq for success, but the country's political leaders are "blowing it," a Marine Corps commander charges.
Brig. Gen. William Mullen, now stationed at Quantico, Va., served as commander of the North Carolina-based 2nd Battalion, 6th Marines, during its deployment to Fallujah in 2007, when al-Qaida was pushed from the Anbar province.
"I know not everyone was there in 2007, 2008 and 2009, but things got so quiet to the point that it was boring over there and al-Anbar was essentially won," the Operation Iraqi Freedom vet told the Marine Corps Times
in an interview published Wednesday.
"We handed off the best opportunity we could to the Iraqis, and it was up to them from then on."
Iraq's current chaotic unraveling is not the fault of the Marines, he said.
"We gave them the best possible opportunity they could have to have a good future when we left," Mullen insisted. "I differentiate between what we did and what's happening now. I force that aside and say, 'We gave you the opportunity; you look like you're blowing it.' "
Mullen says the troops withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 was orderly, but the influence of the Syrian conflict, the lack of an agreement to keep residual forces there and the political rift between Shia and Sunnis have fueled the spiral out of control.
"I think the only benefit of anything going on in Iraq right now is that Afghanistan can learn the lessons of what a precipitous withdrawal could bring," Navy Reserve Lt. Cmdr. Daniel Green told Marine Corps Times.
Green and Mullen have written "Fallujah Redux: The Anbar Awakening and the Struggle with al-Qaeda,
" which goes on sale in September and whose proceeds will benefit Semper Fi Fund, which provides financial support to wounded troops and their families.
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