U.S. knew Islamist militants planned offensive in Iraq, lawmakers told
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration knew an attack was in the works three days before the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria's offensive in northern Iraq, but U.S. efforts to mount a response were hampered by the Iraqi government's insistence that it could handle the threat, two top U.S. architects of Iraq policy said on Wednesday.
The officials drew bipartisan criticism from the House Foreign Affairs Committee as members accused the Obama administration of taking insufficient steps to counter the expansionist goals of the Islamic State, an al-Qaida spin-off that operates freely throughout most of eastern Syria and across the vast swaths of northwestern Iraq that it seized last month.
Brett McGurk, the State Department's deputy assistant secretary for Iraq and Iran who just returned from a seven-week trip to Baghdad, and his counterpart at the Defense Department, Elissa Slotkin, a former Iraq director for the National Security Council, told the panel that the U.S. government had tracked the Islamic State but was caught off guard by the scope of the extremists' offensive and the rapid collapse of the American-trained Iraqi security forces.
McGurk said the United States warned the Iraqi government on June 7 that American intelligence had received “early indications'' that extremists were “moving in force from Syria into Iraq and staging forces in western Mosul.”
Within days, the Islamic State had captured Mosul with little resistance from the security forces.
Four or five divisions of the Iraqi army simply dissolved. McGurk and Slotkin blamed poor leadership rather than a lack of fighting capability for the breakdown and called for an overhaul of Iraq's defense forces.
But McGurk bristled against suggestions that the Obama administration could have done more, noting that President Obama had ordered “a surge of intelligence assets,” asked U.S. special forces to get an “eyes-on picture” from the ground and had moved an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf in response to the campaigns in Iraq's Anbar province this year.
Slotkin described the Islamic State as “one of the most capable and best-funded groups in the region right now,” more worrisome than previous al-Qaida-style networks.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- NYPD: Cop ambush killer told passers-by to watch
- IBM’s Watson supercomputing system to be applied to PTSD
- Obama says Sony hack not an act of war
- WikiLeaks releases purported CIA documents on operatives’ travel
- Document hunt to begin for illegals who need proof of residency since 2010 for permit, reprieve
- Ghostly snailfish found at record depth
- Killer of New York police officers angry over Garner chokehold death, officials say
- Gray wolf decision reversed
- Cat saved from California storm drain after 2 weeks
- Traffic deaths down 3 percent
- Poor morale, training in Air Force ICBM program spur questions about usefulness as nuclear deterrent