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AEI's Kagan: Iraq Problem Cuts Two Ways

By Bill Hoffmann   |   Thursday, 19 Jun 2014 06:56 PM

The reluctance of the United States to commit to solving the Iraqi crisis is a double-edged sword that could lead the growth of terrorism, says Frederick Kagan, director of the Critical Threats Projects at the American Enterprise Institute.

"The overreaching narrative that this is fundamentally an Iraqi problem and there needs to be a fundamentally Iraqi solution is on the one hand right and on the other hand extremely unhelpful and in some respects disingenuous,'' Kagan told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.

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"[It is] in some respects disingenuous. Obviously this is an Iraqi problem, obviously the Iraqis are going to have to work this out.

"But we have a big dog in this fight because the stakes here are will or will there not be a major al-Qaida safe haven of sanctuary in Iraq and Syria?''

And if al-Qaida does root and expand in the "new" Iraq, the vital national security interests of the United States are at serious risk, Kagan believes.

Kagan, one of the architects of the "surge" into Iraq during the Bush administration, said American national security interests should take top priority in any actions the U.S. takes.

"I don’t understand what's hard about this. We're talking about al-Qaida safe havens … That would seem a pretty clear U.S. national interest, wouldn't it?" he said.

In the past several weeks, an al-Qaida splinter group — The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) — has waged a bloody and deadly takeover of key Iraqi cities.

Kagan believes the White House was blindsided by the scope and swiftness of the takeover and he is alarmed that the Obama administration is still adamant about a complete withdrawal from Iraq.

"One of the things that’s astonishing is that even as ISIS was moving on Baghdad, the administration clearly had no idea what to do about anything,'' Kagan said.

"The one thing that we're certain about was that they wanted to say publicly that this was not going to affect the Afghanistan draw down timeline. I just find that absolutely bizarre.

"I find bizarre … that you establish a timeline in war and you stick to it and regardless of circumstances on the ground, which basically means, whether we're winning or we're losing we're coming out which basically means we don’t care what the outcome is, that's what you're saying when you set a timeline like that. I find it baffling.''

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