Gen. Allen: Obama Should Strike Iraq Insurgents With ‘A Hard Blow’

ISAF commander U.S. Marine Gen. John Allen in Afghanistan on Monday May 7, 2012. 
National Journal
Stephanie Gaskell, Defense One
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Stephanie Gaskell, Defense One
June 13, 2014, 1:51 a.m.

Pres­id­ent Barack Obama needs to or­der a mil­it­ary strike against the Ir­aq in­sur­gency soon, be­fore things get worse in Ir­aq and the re­gion, said one of the top former United States mil­it­ary com­mand­ers of the war.

“I vote for soon­er and we must strike them with a hard blow,” said Re­tired Mar­ine Corps Gen. John Al­len, who was deputy com­mand­ing gen­er­al of Multi-Na­tion­al Forces-West in An­bar province from 2006 to 2008, and helped lead the An­bar Awaken­ing, which turned the tide of the Ir­aq War. Al­len said the U.S. has “an ob­lig­a­tion” to help the Ir­aqis now that ter­ror­ists from the Is­lam­ic State in Ir­aq and Syr­ia, or IS­IS, have taken over large swaths of Ir­aq more than two years after the war of­fi­cially ended and U.S. troops left.

“The U.S. will have to act to stop this on­slaught. After all we’ve in­ves­ted in Ir­aq’s sta­bil­ity, in­clud­ing nearly 4,500 Amer­ic­an lives, we have an ob­lig­a­tion, and in­deed we have the cap­ab­il­ity, to help now,” Al­len told De­fense One.

“We did not ask for this emer­gency, but it is upon us, and this is a mo­ment for U.S. stra­tegic lead­er­ship. The Ir­aqis badly need our help, and our friends and part­ners in the re­gion are, once again, turn­ing to the U.S. for lead­er­ship and de­cis­ive ac­tion,” he said.

Al­len, who was also top com­mand­er of U.S. and NATO forces in Afgh­anistan in 2011 and also served as act­ing com­mand­er of CENT­COM in 2010, said that events are un­fold­ing so quickly in Ir­aq that the U.S. na­tion­al se­cur­ity team needs to ap­prove “rap­id ac­tion” to com­bat the wider se­cur­ity threat of IS­IS and oth­er fac­tions spread­ing in the re­gion.

“This is­sue is not solely about Ir­aq,” he said. “It’s about the broad­er spread of al-Qaeda and IS­IS and ISIL (the Is­lam­ic State of the Le­vant) in the re­gion, which is in­tent on top­pling the As­sad re­gime in Dam­as­cus and the [Ir­aqi Pres­id­ent Nouri] al-Malaki re­gime in Bagh­dad. These groups aren’t cas­u­al ji­hadists, they’re a scourge upon the re­gion as a whole. Their ac­tions have reached the mag­nitude of be­ing a ma­jor re­gion­al se­cur­ity threat, and in Ir­aq, their de­pred­a­tions are cre­at­ing a massive hu­man­it­ari­an crisis that is spill­ing over in­to the Kur­d­ish re­gion and could spill over in­to Ir­an, for­cing Ir­a­ni­an in­ter­ven­tion in Ir­aq — something we don’t want.”

Al­len said U.S in­ter­ven­tion would send “a power­ful sig­nal” to the ter­ror­ists that “the U.S. will not tol­er­ate this at­tack on Ir­aq, but more im­port­antly send the mes­sage their na­ked ag­gres­sion and wan­ton crimin­al­ity will not be tol­er­ated in the re­gion.”

The Ir­aqi gov­ern­ment has asked for U.S. as­sist­ance as mem­bers of IS­IS cap­tured the stra­tegic cit­ies of Mo­sul and Tikrit, mak­ing their way to­ward Bagh­dad.

Al­len said he was also deeply con­cerned about Baiji, Ir­aq’s ma­jor oil pro­du­cer, loc­ated just north of Tikrit — where IS­IS fight­ers have taken over. “If the en­emy ele­ments — and I use the word en­emy de­lib­er­ately as these ele­ments are the en­emy of all hu­man­ity — cap­ture Baiji, we have lost con­trol of Ir­aq’s prin­cip­al oil hub. This en­emy already has cap­tured sev­er­al pop­u­la­tion cen­ters and hun­dreds, per­haps thou­sands of pris­on­ers, many among the Ir­aqi se­cur­ity forces. As well the en­emy has re­portedly stolen mil­lions of Ir­aqi dinars from banks along their in­va­sion route.”

Al­len said Obama needs to send a strong sig­nal that even though the war in Ir­aq is over, the threats to the re­gion and to U.S. na­tion­al se­cur­ity are not.

“I strongly en­dorse Pres­id­ent Obama’s un­am­bigu­ous sig­nals that the U.S. will act,” he said. “This isn’t re­fight­ing the last war, this is about pre­vent­ing the col­lapse of a ma­jor Ar­ab part­ner and vi­tal oil pro­du­cer. It’s about check­ing the mo­mentum of one of the most hor­rendous groups to emerge from the Syr­i­an civil war. Time is not on our side, not is it on Ir­aq’s. This ma­lig­nancy, IS­IS, is on the march and the re­gion is be­ing threatened and we will have to deal with it soon­er on our terms, or later on theirs. I vote for soon­er and we must strike them with a hard blow.”

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