How did the White House miss the rise of ISIS? Not for the first time, former Defense Intelligence Agency chief Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn says that the issue is less of missing it than of ignoring it. Yesterday, Flynn told CNN’s Jake Tapper that Barack Obama and his team were more interested in promoting a narrative that “al-Qaeda was on the run” than in dealing with a real national-security threat (via Jeff Dunetz):
“I think that they did not meet a narrative the White House needed. And I’ll be very candid with you, they just didn’t,” retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “The Lead.”
Flynn, who has been critical of both Obama’s and former President George W. Bush’s handling of the Iraq War and involvement in the Middle East, said that Obama was served poorly by a small circle of advisers who were worried about his re-election prospects at the time.
The story they needed to tell, he said, was that pulling troops from Iraq would not leave the region vulnerable to the rise of a radical Islamic group like ISIS.
“I think the narrative was that al Qaeda was on the run, and (Osama) bin Laden was dead. … They’re dead and these guys are, we’ve beaten them,” Flynn said — but the problem was that no matter how many terrorist leaders they killed, they “continue to just multiply.”
It’s not the first time that Flynn has accused Obama and the White House of prioritizing the election over national security. Last week, Flynn told Fox News that the probe of CENTCOM on politicized intelligence should start in the Oval Office. “Where intelligence starts and stops is at the White House,” Flynn remarked. “The president sets the priorities and he’s the number one customer. So if he’s not getting the intelligence he needs and if he’s not paying attention to what else is going on, then something else is wrong there between them and the advisers he has.” As to the rise of ISIS being a surprise, Flynn told Fox last week that such a suggestion was absurd, given the DIA’s clear warning in the summer of 2012 and continuing intelligence afterward. “Nobody can sit here today — no one, particularly the amount of intelligence that the White House got — and say, ‘We didn’t know this was a problem,'” Flynn scoffed. “I mean, give me a break.”
Now the threat is undeniable, particularly after the Paris attacks demonstrated ISIS’ capability to infiltrate the West. When asked by Tapper whether the US needed to do more to prevent a repeat of Paris here, Flynn heralded the FBI’s work in counterterrorism, but the nature of a Paris or Mumbai type of plot may make it all but impossible to prevent once the operatives are in the US. “Do you think it’s just a matter of time?” Tapper asks, and Flynn replies, “I do. It’s going to be where our luck is going to run out, and they’re going to be able to achieve something along the lines of what we saw in Paris.”
This is why it was important to have a forward strategy in the war on radical Islamist terrorism. It’s better to fight them where they are with our military than to fight them on our streets with unarmed civilians and undergunned police. The French learned that lesson in Paris, and we will end up learning it the hard way as well, if Flynn’s correct — and he’s not running for office.