October 27, 2021

Obama: Give me a few more years in Syria

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The argument represents a rapid evolution in rhetoric for Obama, who insisted that the 2011 withdrawal of military forces from Iraq, just eight years after the U.S. toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime, would allow the U.S. to move “forward from a position of strength” as a “partner with an Iraq that contributes to regional security and peace.”

Since that time, the Islamic State has set up a caliphate in a large swath of Iraq and part of Syria. A quarter of a million Syrians have been killed in the country’s ongoing five-year civil war. Unlike Iraq, the U.S. never had ground troops in Syria, but Obama did authorize a program to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels. After findings that the $500 million program had only armed a handful of rebels, the program was scrapped this week.

Kroft also brought up the failed program in his interview with Obama. “You got a half a billion dollars from Congress to train and equip 5,000, and at the end, according to the commander of [U.S. Central Command,] you got 50 people, most of whom are dead or deserted; he said [there were only] four or five left” in the program. Many of the weapons the U.S. sent to the moderates quickly passed to al Qaeda in Syria and other jihadist groups.”

“It’s an embarrassment,” said Kroft flatly.

Obama asserted that he had been “skeptical” of efforts to arm the rebels from the beginning, but struggled to answer when pushed on why he had approved of the plan if he never believed it could work.

Ultimately, Obama blamed Syrian leader Bashar Assad, and the rebels, who he said were too easily distracted by Assad’s continued presence.

“My goal has been to try to test the proposition,” said Obama. “Can we be able to train and equip a moderate opposition that’s willing to fight ISIL? And what we’ve learned is that as long as Assad remains in power, it is very difficult to get those folks to focus their attention on ISIL.”

Obama sought authorization from Congress to initiate air strikes against Assad in 2013, but support for the initiative faltered due to intense opposition.

Nonetheless, Obama said, with the exception of Syria, he believes Americans are safer now than they were seven years ago.

“America is a safer place,” Obama said. “I think that there are places, obviously, like Syria, that are not safer than when I came into office. But in terms of us protecting ourselves against terrorism, in terms of us making sure that — we are strengthening our alliances — in terms of our reputation around the world, absolutely we’re stronger.”

Source: Washington Examiner

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