For example, back on February 11, 2014, the then head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, (DIA), Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, testified before the United States Senate Armed Services Committee. In his testimony, General Flynn spoke about Transnational Terrorist Threats, and listed several of the greatest “group” threats facing the United States. At the top of the list was Al’Qaida Command and Control, followed by Al’Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula or (AQAP). The next was listed as Al’Qaida in Iraq (AQI), which he then opined as being also known as Islamic State of Iraq and Levant or ISIL. I won’t belabor his testimony, but there was definite intelligence about ISIL, and it was equally clear that the Intelligence Community was concerned. Concerned enough for General Flynn to make sure that Congress knew that they were dangerous, organized, and quite capable of extending their reach outside of their normal operating area in Iraq and Syria. (They were already at this point responsible for bombings in Beirut).
Now flash forward to the tribal and other issues that were arising in Iraq. The politicians, coupled with their religious/ethnic battles (Sunni v. Shia v. Kurds), were creating a climate rife for the fermenting of discontent at lots of levels, to include their own military. What nobody predicted is that the Iraqi military, trained by the United States and allies such as the United Kingdom, France, etc., would simply melt away in the face of a concerted threat. In other words, when they bolted, they abandoned their equipment. With each ISIL victory came the addition of newer equipment, and coupled with their two or more years experience of combat in Syria’s civil war, we were now looking at an even great threat. Now they are a group that can project power well beyond their region and on into the rest of the world.
Fox News, CNN, and lots of pundits love to point at General Martin Dempsey (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff), and say that he is changing his tune. First he didn’t want military assistance to go to Syria, and now he wants to expand operations to attack in Syria. Let me just say that arming groups in Syria several years ago was a bad idea then, and here is why. Two years ago we couldn’t be sure which groups were affiliated with ISIS/ISIL, and that was well and firmly stated at the time. Face it, if we’d handed them advanced arms two years ago, then we’d have been facing this recent threat much sooner, from a much larger territory in Syria. Ergo, I must defend General Dempsey, since he was right then, and he is right now. If you expect the Media to remind you of these things, then you won’t get it. Instead, you have to read the information that is out there from other sources. I found General Flynn’s testimony online, from an open source, and it explained to me that not only did we know about the threat, but it was NOT an intelligence failure that led to this surprise. It was instead a leadership failure in places like Iraq that allowed this to get as huge as it did, and as quickly as it did. This is why Maliki had to go, and even IRAN had that figured out. Simply put, if you want to blame someone, then don’t hang this on people like General Flynn or the rest of the Intelligence Community. They reported this news at the time, and it isn’t their fault that nobody (News Media/Congress/etc.) seemed to want to really listen! ~ Michael S. Pauley