The 2016 elections will boil down to cause, and effect—and when it comes to foreign policy, the Democrats will have much to answer for, especially when it comes to the rise of ISIS.

The withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, which began in 2010, remains one of Obama’s more controversial foreign policy orders to date. The war wasn’t popular, but then again, neither was the idea of letting go of a country we fought so hard to clean out and control before that country was ready to stand on its own two feet. Still, Obama persisted, and the rest is history: large parts of Iraq crumbled, and the chaos gave rise to the Islamic State’s brutal, terrifying brand of terrorism.

Outgoing Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno spent more time in Iraq than any other U.S. General; he was an architect of the Surge, and spent half his time overseas as a top commander—and he says the chaos we’re seeing today could have been prevented if only the Administration had agreed to follow recommendations regarding the pace of troop withdrawals, saying, “If we had stayed a little more engaged, I think maybe it might have been prevented… I’ve always believed the United States played the role of honest broker between all the groups and when we pulled ourselves out, we lost that role.”

Via Fox News:

In 2009, while still the top commander in Iraq, Odierno recommended keeping 30,000-35,000 U.S. troops after the end of 2011, when the U.S. was scheduled to pull out. The recommendation was not followed.

“I think it would have been good for us to stay,” Odierno said, when asked if it was a mistake to pull out.

Further, when ISIS took over large portions of Iraq last year including its second-largest city, Mosul, the White House apparently didn’t reach out to the Army officer who had spent more time commanding U.S. forces than anyone else.

“All my work was given to [Joint Chiefs] Chairman [Martin] Dempsey,” Odiernio said. “I never talked directly to the president about it at that time, but I talked to the secretary of defense and I’m sure he relayed all of my thoughts,” he added.

Odierno, though, is most worried about the deep cuts to the Army over the past four years – from 570,000 troops in 2010 to near 490,000 today, a reduction of 14 percent. And the cuts are getting deeper.


Odierno’s concerns stem from our decreasing ability to deter threats not just in Iraq, but from other bad actors like Russia and Iran. Invoking history, he describes how hindsight shows a marked decline in stability in Europe—something no American would ever have expected just a few short years ago. With Russia reasserting itself, and a belligerent Iran running all but free from the fear of international criticism, Odierno believes that it is “naive” for Americans to sit back and believe this decline will fix itself.

The outgoing Chief is no stranger to criticism. In the wake of the Chattanooga shootings, Odierno spoke out to temper expectations about changes in military policy regarding armed soldiers on base:

Current Army chief of staff Gen. Raymond Odierno – the man who Milley would replace if he is confirmed — told Fox News the Army is considering allowing recruiters to carry weapons.

“When it comes to recruiting stations, we are looking at it now — what are we doing now to best protect them,” Odierno said. “We will look at every avenue — arming them, there is some authority issues with that so we have to look all the way through that.”

Odierno did, however, say he has “a problem with” soldiers at “all installations” being armed.

He also supports the Iran nuclear deal—at least in theory; but while his positions have not been perfect, you have to wonder how the past few years look from his perspective.

Obama has a history of ignoring the advice of those more experienced than himself. On a domestic level, this has affected our health care, our ability to do business, and our freedom to live life as far away from the long arm of government as possible. Overseas, it has led to the undoing of years of service, and the rise of militant extremism. ISIS has spread out of Iraq and Syria, and into Egypt, greater Africa, Kashmir in India, Pakistan, and even Europe and the United States. It’s a development that can’t possibly be real, yet we sit and watch it on the news.

I think it’s important that we listen and reflect on Odierno’s words in the coming weeks. His criticisms aren’t vague; when Obama is finally forced to answer for what his policies have wrought, I fear that everything Odierno has said here will be proven 100% true.