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The National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2013 states that “the operations and activities that may be carried out by OSC-I may, with the concurrence of the secretary of state, include non-operational training activities in support of Iraqi Ministry of Defense and Counter-Terrorism Service personnel in an institutional environment to address capability gaps, integrate processes relating to intelligence, air sovereignty, combined arms, logistics and maintenance, and to manage and integrate defense-related institutions.”

Frank Gaffney, a senior Pentagon official in the Reagan administration and director of the Center for Security Policy, said the U.S. is on the verge of wasting the “blood and treasure that we expended on the cities and regions in Iraq that are once again in the news.”

Al Qaeda has made significant gains in the Sunni stronghold of Anbar, a desert province that borders Syria and was the center of the insurgency against U.S. troops after the 2003 invasion that ousted dictator Saddam Hussein. Insurgents claimed control of Anbar’s main cities — Ramadi and Fallujah, where terrorists killed four U.S. security contractors and hanged their mutilated bodies from a bridge in 2004.

“What’s happening there now in terms of ascendancy of jihadists, whether they’re of the al Qaeda stripe or whether they are Iranian, is the absolutely predictable consequence of President Obama’s decision to abandon the place — lock, stock and barrel,” Mr. Gaffney said.

The Obama administration pulled out troops in 2011 after failing to reach an agreement with the al-Maliki government on Washington’s demand that U.S. troops remain under the military’s criminal jurisdiction, not Baghdad’s.

Press reports at the time indicated that the White House did not try hard to win an agreement because Mr. Obama wanted to make a campaign issue of ending U.S. involvement in the war.

Gen. Keane said Mr. al-Maliki’s strategy of marginalizing minority Sunni political leaders “is an absolute disaster on Maliki’s part because by disenfranchising the Sunnis politically, he has allowed al Qaeda to re-emerge, and now the Sunnis are also willing to take up arms along with the al Qaeda. All of that could have been avoided if he kept Sunnis in the political family, so to speak.”

The irony is that al Qaeda had all but given up fighting by 2009 because a U.S. counterterrorism operation of real-time intelligence and pinpoint airstrikes and raids had killed many of them.

Said Gen. Keane: “All the communication we were monitoring by the al Qaeda, they were actually using words like, ‘The Americans are killing us. Don’t send any more fighters. We have lost this war.’”