(CNSNews.com) – The chaos now “spirally out of control” in Iraq was both predictable and preventable, says Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA).
In 2011, President Obama announced that nearly all U.S. troops would be gone from Iraq by December 31st of that year, and that “Iraqis have taken full responsibility for their country’s security.”
But Wolf pointed out that U.S. military officials warned Obama about the danger of not leaving a residual force in place to help stabilize the country and train Iraqi troops.
Wolf blamed the Obama administration for not renegotiating the 2008 Status of Forces Agreement with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki after it expired.
“Once they failed to get a status of force agreement, it was clear what was going to happen, if you talked to people who knew the region, knew the country,” the veteran 17-term congressman told CNSNews.com.
“Keep in mind we still have forces on the ground in Korea. They’re not fighting, but they’re there. We still have soldiers on the ground in Germany, one of our biggest trading partners,” Wolf pointed out.
“So once you failed to get the status of force agreement, then I think people thought it was just going to go and unravel,” he said. “And what you are seeing could very well be, what you could very well see in Afghanistan several years from now.”
“I don’t think they ever really worked for it. They just kind of gave up,” Wolf told CNSNews.com. “It’s tragic. It didn’t have to been this way. We were winning. We had won, basically.”
Wolf characterized the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an Islamic extremist group that seeks to establish a caliphate in the region and has promised “direct confrontation” with the U.S., as “worse than al Qaeda.”
He also said that Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent announcement that he would open diplomatic talks with Iran regarding ISIS - whose leader had been imprisoned in Baghdad for six years before he was released - as another blunder by the Obama administration.
Iran is “an enemy of the United States that is aiding and abetting [Syrian President Bashar] Assad in Syria and worked with Hezbollah to blow up 241 Marines” in Lebanon, Wolf pointed out.
“And keep in mind [that] many Americans who were killed in Iraq were killed by IEDs that were developed in Iran, and the people that set them were trained in Iran,” he continued.
“Iran is the enemy of the United States. Iran wants only bad things to happen to the United States. I’m not so sure we should be sitting down with Iran.”
CNSNews.com asked Wolf, who previously visited Iraq with Gen. David Petraeus and was the driving force behind the establishment of the Iraq Study Group, if he ever envisioned that the same areas liberated by U.S. forces would be overtaken by terrorists or that the U.S. would seek help from Iran in dealing with them.
“No, no. But once you didn’t get the status of force agreement, which they didn’t even try, it was inevitable,” Wolf replied. “I mean, I talked to people that were experts. They could just see this thing happening.”
Last Friday, Wolf recommended that President Obama send a bipartisan group comprised of three former CIA directors - Petraeus, Bob Gates and Leon Panetta - former members of the Iraq Study Group, and former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker “to assess what could or what should be done. ”
“I don’t think you can do it from here in Washington. I don’t think you have a group of people at the National Security Council sitting around or a Secretary of Defense who hasn’t been there for years and really make an assessment.”
Although “I don’t forsee us sending ground troops back,” Wolf told CNSNews.com that something must be done about the situation in Iraq because it “has serious repercussions for the United States. There are now roughly anywhere from 70 to 100 Americans, who have American passports, who are fighting with the ISIS in Syria. In fact, one a week and a half ago did a suicide attack. He was from Vero Beach, Florida.”
Another “7,000 to 10,000” jihadists from Western Europe have also joined up with ISIS after going through Turkey, which they do not need a visa to enter, he said.
Wolf says he feels “terrible, terrible” about the loss of American soldiers who died liberating Iraqi towns and cities, only to have them overrun by ISIS militants. “I’m very concerned. This is not going to go away,” he told CNSNews.com.
“It is inconceivable that places I, and other Members of Congress, visited just a few years ago – and that American men and women gave their lives to help secure – are now falling to hard-line jihadists,” Wolf said in a June 12 statement.
“In essence, this jihad extremist group…is effectively carving out a terrorist state in the heart of the Middle East before our eyes, and the Obama administration appears to have no plan to respond.”