WASHINGTON (CBSDC/AP) — President Barack Obama is calling the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria an “unintended consequence” of the United States invading Iraq in 2003.
“ISIL is the direct outgrowth of al Qaeda in Iraq that grew out of our invasion, which is an example of unintended consequences,” Obama said, “which is why we should generally aim before we shoot.”
The U.S., along with dozens of its allies, have been targeting ISIS locations for the past several months in both Iraq and Syria. The White House has consistently ruled out putting U.S. troops on the ground to combat the terror group.
“We’ve got a 60-country coalition. We will slowly push back ISIL out of Iraq. I’m confident that will happen,” Obama told Vice News.
The president said more work will need to be done when ISIS is defeated.
“But what I’m worried about, and what we have to stay worried about, is even if ISIL is defeated, the underlying problem of disaffected Sunnis around the world – but particularly in some of these areas including Libya, including Yemen,” Obama explained, “where a young man who’s growing up has no education, has no prospects for the future, is looking around and the one way he can get validation, power, respect is if he’s a fighter and this looks like the toughest gang around, so let me affiliate with them.
“And now you’re giving me a religious rationale for doing this. That’s a problem we’re going to have generally and we can’t keep on thinking that about counterterrorism and security entirely separate from diplomacy, development, education – all these things that are considered soft, but are in fact vital to our national security.”
Obama’s comments come as top White House officials have consulted former CIA Director David Petraeus about the fight against ISIS — despite his admission that he gave classified material to his biographer and mistress, the White House said Monday.
Petraeus was brought in by President George W. Bush to command multinational forces in Iraq in 2007, and presided over the “surge” of American forces there. Defending the Obama administration’s decision to get advice from him periodically, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Petraeus maintains strong relationships with Iraqi military and political leaders.
“He is, I think, legitimately regarded as an expert, when it comes to the security situation in Iraq,” Earnest said. “So I think it makes a lot of sense for senior administration officials to, on occasion, consult him for advice.”
Petraeus has had only a handful of conversations with officials in the White House’s National Security Council since last summer, said a White House official, who said it was similar to the consultation the White House conducts with a variety of national security experts. Petraeus is not advising the White House in any official capacity and is not getting paid for his advice, said the official, who wasn’t authorized to discuss the arrangement by name and requested anonymity.
A retired four-star general, Petraeus’ vaunted career suffered a major blow from revelations he gave the biographer, Paula Broadwell, eight binders of classified material he had improperly kept. The 62-year-old agreed earlier this month to plead guilty to a misdemeanor count that carries a possible sentence of up to a year in prison.
Earnest said he wasn’t aware of any security precautions being taken due to Petraeus’ legal situation.
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