- - Thursday, June 12, 2014

Instead of being defeated, as President Obama boasted, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, an al Qaeda affiliate known as ISIS, seized total control of Mosul, Iraq, after four days of fighting — and they are taking over Iraq completely, assisted by Mr. Obama’s withdrawal (“American-made military Humvees stolen by al Qaeda offshoot, headed for Syria,” Web, June 10).

Thousands of civilians have fled for their lives as the Iraqi army and U.S. policy in Iraq have completely collapsed. Mr. Obama cannot blame his predecessor for the debacle because when President Bush left office, Iraq was at peace. Civilian casualties fell from about 31,400 in 2006 to 4,700 in 2009. Al Qaeda was on the verge of being defeated in Iraq. Five years later, Iraq is exceeding in turmoil the disastrous situation it was in before Mr. Bush’s successful troop “surge.”

The city of Fallujah, taken in November 2004 from jihadists by Marines at the cost of 95 killed and 600 wounded, fell again to al Qaeda in January, and the Iraqi government has not been able to reclaim the area since. Thousands of civilians have been killed in Fallujah this year. The collapse of the Iraqi army in Mosul and inability to take back Fallujah reflect poorly on Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his Shiite “State of Law” coalition about to be re-elected later this year. The Obama policy of strategic neglect toward Iraq has created al Qaeda control of miles of territory through Anbar province and into Syria.

All this is a warning of what can happen in Afghanistan as Mr. Obama replays his strategy of full withdrawal after 2016. It also reveals the great blunder of leaving no U.S. forces behind. Iraq finally had a chance to serve as a catalyst for stability and U.S. influence in the region. An Iraqi army aided by U.S. advisers, logistics and air power would not have collapsed as it did in Mosul and Fallujah with more cities being taken over by terrorists and more defeats to come.

By playing re-election politics and withdrawing from Iraq completely, Mr. Obama put his desire for a campaign talking point above our country’s strategic interests. Now America and her allies, who also sacrificed many troops, are facing the reality of a civil war in Iraq and the creation of a terrorist haven.

On top of the collapse of Iraqi forces, Mr. Obama’s recent release of five top terrorists will most likely result in those killers returning to the battlefield and providing leadership, management and know-how to their terrorist organizations.

LT. COL. DOMINIK NARGELE

U.S. Marines (retired)

Arlington