The rise of ISIS may have been "avoidable," had the United States remained in Iraq rather than pulling out troops, retired four-star Gen. Ray Odierno, who stepped down as Army Chief of Staff last summer, said Friday.
"I'm not one for revisionist history," Odierno told MSNBC's "Morning Joe"
program, explaining that when he gave up command of commander of the Multi-National Force in Iraq in 2010, that country was "in great shape" and had a "fairly stable political system."
However, there were signs that it might not be "so stable," the retired general said, but if the United States had stayed, he thinks "it could have made a difference."
And when it comes to ISIS, Odierno said "of course" the United States is using combat troops in the fight.
"Our special operation forces are our most highly trained that we have in the armed services," said Odierno. "ISIS, frankly, declared war on us so it's clear of their intentions. So I think the president understands that he doesn't want to get us entangled with hundreds of thousands of troops deployed around the world again.
"I understand that completely. But we have to realize in order to stop this, we have to be aggressive in smaller numbers, work with other nations in order to solve these problems. This is becoming a global problem."
Meanwhile, he believes Americans don't quite understand where the nation is on national security.
"We talk about the economy because that's important to a lot of people," Odierno said. "But national security and the economy are directly linked to each other. You can't separate it and say, 'I'm going to talk about the economy. I'm not going to talk about national security.' You have to talk about both. They affect both sides."
Odierno said he is encouraged that the number of people on the ground have been increased in the battle against ISIS, and he would like to see the United States becoming more engaged in Syria against the terrorists.
"You can't let them have a safe haven anywhere," Odierno said. "What's happening today is the longer we allow them to hold ground in Syria and Iraq, it allows them to grow in popularity . . . That's allowing is it to spread.
"It's spreading to north Africa and other areas around the world. And now you have people being influenced to do attacks."
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