Published December 20, 2015
A prophetic warning from then-President George W. Bush before he left office about what would happen if the U.S. withdrew troops from Iraq too soon is getting new attention in light of the Islamic State’s gains, as each of his predictions appears to be coming true.
Bush, as discussed on "The Kelly File," made the remarks in the White House briefing room on July 12, 2007, as he argued against those who sought an immediate troop withdrawal.
“To begin withdrawing before our commanders tell us we are ready would be dangerous for Iraq, for the region and for the United States,” Bush cautioned.
He then ticked off a string of predictions about what would happen if the U.S. left too early.
“It would mean surrendering the future of Iraq to Al Qaeda.
“It would mean that we’d be risking mass killings on a horrific scale.
“It would mean we allow the terrorists to establish a safe haven in Iraq to replace the one they lost in Afghanistan.
“It would mean we’d be increasing the probability that American troops would have to return at some later date to confront an enemy that is even more dangerous.”
Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen says all these predictions have come true.
“Every single thing that President Bush said there in that statement is happening today,” he told Fox News.
To Bush’s first warning, the Islamic State terror group is effectively the successor to Al Qaeda in Iraq – and they’ve overrun several major cities in Iraq’s north while claiming broad swaths of territory in Syria. Further, the group has been behind mass killings of Iraqi civilians as well as the recent execution by beheading of two American journalists.
The Obama administration has warned that the group’s violence threatens to approach genocide levels.
Though President Obama says combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq, American troops are nevertheless returning in some capacity. The president on Wednesday announced an expanded airstrike campaign against the group in Iraq and Syria, and is sending hundreds more U.S. military personnel into Iraq.
Some lawmakers and analysts say this could have been avoided if the Obama administration had left a residual force in Iraq, or at least had responded sooner to ISIS’ gains in northern Iraq over the past year.
Bush, before he left office, signed an agreement setting the stage for U.S. troops to withdraw by December 2011.
Obama, though, was urged by military advisers to keep thousands of service members after that deadline to help the shaky Iraqi government. But when Washington and Baghdad were unable to reach a renewed agreement governing the presence of U.S. forces in the country, the Obama administration withdrew virtually all troops at the end of 2011.
“We needed to leave a stabilizing force behind, and we didn't. And of course, we know the rest is history,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told Fox News.