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«We were too dumb»
02.12.2015. Without the Iraq war, Islamic State wouldn't exist today, former US special forces chief Mike Flynn openly admits. In an interview, he explains IS' rise to become a professional force and how the Americans allowed its future leader to slip out of their hands. Thus writes Spiegel Online:
Michael Flynn, 56, served in the United States Army for more than 30 years, most recently as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, where he was the nation's highest-ranking military intelligence officer. Previously, he served as assistant director of national intelligence inside the Obama administration. From 2004 to 2007, he was stationed in Afghanistan and Iraq, where, as commander of the US special forces, he hunted top al-Qaida terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, one of the predecessors to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who today heads the Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq. After Flynn's team located Zarqawi's whereabouts, the US killed the terrorist in an air strike in June 2006.
In an interview, Flynn explains the rise of the Islamic State and how the blinding emotions of 9/11 led the United States in the wrong direction strategically.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: A Western military intervention runs the risk of being seen as a new attempt to invade the region.
Flynn: That's why we need the Arabs as partners, they must be the face of the mission -- but, today, they are neither capable of conducting nor leading this type of operation, only the United States can do this. And we don't want to invade or even own Syria. Our message must be that we want to help and that we will leave once the problems have been solved. The Arab nations must be on our side. And if we catch them financing, if they funnel money to IS, that's when sanctions and other actions have to kick in.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: In February 2004, you already had Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in your hands -- he was imprisoned in in a military camp, but got cleared later as harmless by a US military commission. How could that fatal mistake happen?
Flynn: We were too dumb. We didn't understand who we had there at that moment. When 9/11 occurred, all the emotions took over, and our response was, "Where did those bastards come from? Let's go kill them. Let's go get them." Instead of asking why they attacked us, we asked where they came from. Then we strategically marched in the wrong direction.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: The US invaded Iraq even though Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11.
Flynn: First we went to Afghanistan, where al-Qaida was based. Then we went into Iraq. Instead of asking ourselves why the phenomenon of terror occurred, we were looking for locations. This is a major lesson we must learn in order not to make the same mistakes again.
SPIEGEL ONLINE: The Islamic State wouldn't be where it is now without the fall of Baghdad. Do you regret ...
Flynn: ... yes, absolutely ...
SPIEGEL ONLINE: ... the Iraq war?
Flynn: It was huge error. As brutal as Saddam Hussein was, it was a mistake to just eliminate him. The same is true for Moammar Gadhafi and for Libya, which is now a failed state. The historic lesson is that it was a strategic failure to go into Iraq. History will not be and should not be kind with that decision.
Read the entire interview in Spiegel Online.
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