A lot happened during David Petraeus’ 14-month tenure as CIA Director that began in September of 2011. Anwar al-Awlaki was killed in a controversial drone attack that month; Libya’s Muammar Gadhafi was overthrown and killed in October; U.S. troops were completely pulled out of Iraq in December; logistics of an alleged operation run out of Benghazi commenced in early 2012 that sent weapons into Syria through Turkey were said to have been run by Petraeus; his CIA Annex in Benghazi was attacked on September 11th of that year; and his tenure ended abruptly amid controversy over the details of an extra-marital affair the Obama administration had been hanging over his head.
Petraeus is also the man credited with coming up with and successfully implementing the “surge” strategy that turned things around in Iraq back in 2007.
All that history makes an interview he recently granted to the Pittsburgh Post Gazette an interesting read, especially when reading in between the lines. During that interview, Petraeus was asked about ISIS:
Interviewer: Was there any intelligence on ISIS when you were CIA director?
Petraeus: ISIS in a sense is the evolution of an organization that we did defeat, al-Qaida in Iraq. Some of the very hard work we did to help re-establish the fabric of Iraqi society — to bring the Sunni Arabs back into Iraqi society and give them an incentive to support the new Iraq rather than to oppose it — was undone. It created fertile ground once again for the planting of the seeds of extremism and alienated the Sunni Arab component of Iraqi society.
What really revived al-Qaida in Iraq and turned them into the Islamic State [ISIS] was the civil war in Syria. They grew, gained experience and could identify competent leaders and then begin to capture arms, funding and generate significant resources to enable their expansion. People saw ISIS coming. Even out of the intelligence world, it was well known what ISIS was doing in Syria.
If anyone had reason to be more critical of Obama’s Iraqi troop withdrawal than say Leon Panetta (who was very critical of it), it’d be Petraeus. Yet, he doesn’t point to that as being the main reason for the rise of ISIS. Instead, he points to Syria’s civil war, which fits nicely into the narrative of an administration that destroyed him on many fronts.
Why would he do such a thing? The argument he’s pursuing the ‘discretion is the better part of valor’ track but it just seems like such a stretch. In addition to Obama frittering away Petraeus’ success in Iraq, his administration held knowledge of an extra-marital affair over the General’s head for months and destroyed him with it immediately after the 2012 election.
Here is Krauthammer shortly after Petraeus was forced out as CIA Director:
The notion that weapons were being shipped out of the CIA Annex in Benghazi during Petraeus’ tenure is not new. The very reputable Catherine Herridge reported on it; Senator Rand Paul asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about it; Speaker John Boehner all but conceded it; and Allen West claims to have spoken with someone who had firsthand knowledge it was happening.
Then of course, the compelling case that Petraeus ran it.
Here is Boehner with Laura Ingraham, answering a question about weapons trafficking out of Benghazi to Turkey and then onto Syria after Paul questioned Hillary. Sounds like Boehner conceded the point:
Any weapons shipped out of Benghazi after 2011 would have been shipped to Syria after U.S. troops had already vacated neighboring Iraq. While there were no boots on the ground in Syria, al-Qaeda / ISIS boots were arriving there from Iraq, by Petraeus’ own admission.
This would mean that not only was everything Petraeus worked so hard for in Iraq destroyed but that he was leading an operation out of Benghazi that helped fuel the rise of ISIS.
Is this why he’s not critical of Obama when it comes to Iraq and Syria?