Retired Army General says Obama let Al-Qaeda grow ‘fourfold in last 5 years’

Members of al Qaeda's Nusra Front drive in a convoy as they tour villages, which they said they have seized control of from Syrian rebel factions, in the southern countryside of Idlib, December 2, 2014. (Reuters/Khalil Ashawi)
Retired military personnel told senators that the lack of White House strategy makes US combat efforts in the Middle East unwinnable. One general added that “failed” policy has allowed Al-Qaeda to grow “fourfold” since President Barack Obama’s election.

Gen. Jack Keane joined retired US Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis and retired Navy Adm. William Fallon on Tuesday to testify before the new members of the Senate Armed Services Committee – which for the first time includes veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, such as Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa.

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During the testimony, the panel questioned the policy path followed by the Obama administration regarding the battle against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, as well as the war in Afghanistan. Gen. Keane told lawmakers that despite efforts to beat back Al-Qaeda, the group has actually grown over the past few years.

“As you can see on the map, Al-Qaeda and its affiliates exceeds Iran and is beginning to dominate multiple countries. In fact, Al-Qaeda has grown fourfold in the last five years,” he said.

The Islamic State of Iraq, ISIS, is an outgrowth from Al-Qaeda in Iraq, which was defeated in Iraq by 2009. After US troops pulled out of Iraq in 2011, ISIS emerged as a terrorist organization in Iraq, moved into Syria in 2012. Is it possible to look at that map in front of you and claim that the United States policy and strategy is working? Or that Al-Qaeda is on the run? It is unmistakable that our policies have failed.”

Keane, a Vietnam veteran, helped oversee the initial invasion of Iraq. Following his 2003 retirement, he became one of the most vocal advocates for increasing the number of troops deployed to the war. He was instrumental in the policy of a “surge” of ground troops under Gen. David Petraeus. Keane is also a national security advisor for Fox News.

The retired general told the committee that Al-Qaeda declared war on the United States in the early 1990s and desired to drive the US out of the region and dominate all Muslim lands. He said that as the most ambitious Islamic-based movement, it wants to eventually achieve world domination.

US policy makers refuse to accurately name the movement radical Islam. We fully chose not to define it and its ideology, and most critically we have no comprehensive strategy to stop it and defeat it,” said Keane.

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Some of Keane’s sentiments were echoed by others on the panel who agreed the US needs to more clearly and directly lay out its policy goals and define its enemies.

[We need to] come out from our reactive crouch and take a firm, strategic stance in defense of our values,” Mattis said during his testimony on Tuesday morning.

America needs a refreshed national security strategy,” he added, saying that it must look beyond the string of crises “currently consuming the executive branch.” Mattis said the US has been in a “strategy-free” stance in Iraq for some time, and that didn’t begin with the Obama administration.