The United States must help Iraq fight off the terrorist group ISIS or expect to witness a bloodbath never before seen in the Middle East, retired Air Force Lt. Col. Rick Francona says.
"I don’t think anyone is ready to sit back and just give Iraq to a bunch of Islamist fanatics because you will create Afghanistan on steroids,'' Francona told "The Steve Malzberg Show'' on Newsmax TV.
"There will be a bloodbath, the likes of which we have not seen.''
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The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria [ISIS] splintered off from al-Qaida, gained control of two Sunni-dominated cities in Iraq, and now threatens to conquer the capital city of Baghdad.
President Barack Obama said on Thursday the U.S. "will not rule anything out" as it watches the actions of ISIS, which is backed by ex-military officers of Saddam Hussein’s regime. One is Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, Saddam's onetime deputy who escaped the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
And Francona, a military intelligence expert, warned that ISIS' seizure of key Iraqi cities is a preview of what will happen in Afghanistan should the U.S. completely end its presence there.
"This group is very dangerous … They believe that Iraq and Syria are artificial creations that the British and the French after World War I,'' Francona said.
"They want to turn this into an Islamic state and they've had great success in North Eastern Syria and now they're having great success in Western Iraq.
"They're being joined by a lot of former Iraqi army people … [and] bringing in people from outside. Whoever is running this organization has had some real formal military training because they are making Iraqi army look terrible.''
Francona said that as deadly as al-Qaida has been, ISIS is far more fanatical in its beliefs.
"They're so doctrinaire and fundamentalist that al-Qaida has almost washed their hands of them,'' he said.
Francona believes the new Iraqi crisis stems from the Obama administration's virtual abandonment of Iraq in 2011.
"He just walked away and … [withdrew] our forces prematurely, leaving the Iraqis on their own,'' he said.
"Our training of the Iraqis really stopped basically and there was no backup force of U.S. forces in the country to stop just this from happening.
"As that as the backdrop, now we see this reversal of fortune of the Iraqi army. The Iraqi military is basically collapsing in front of these guys.''
But exactly how the U.S. should help is not clear cut, according to Francona, who's received the Distinguished Service Medal, Superior Service Medal, Bronze Star, nine Air Medals, and campaign awards for service in Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, and the Balkans.
"This is a real mess because in my opinion we have abdicated much of our leadership in the area,'' he said.
"If you're the Taliban, if you're ISIS … all you do is wait and say well the Americans are leaving and [in] Afghanistan there will be no Americans there after 2016.
"[They'll say], 'We'll just wait. Time is on our side and then we'll turn Afghanistan back into the Islamic Emirate that it once was."
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