Former President Jimmy Carter has criticized the Obama administration’s handling of the crisis in the Middle East and the growing threat of the Islamic State, joining a growing list of the president’s allies who are scrutinizing his strategy in Syria and Iraq.
In an interview with the Fort Worth, Tex. Star-Telegram published Tuesday, Carter said the U.S. had waited too long to respond to the growing power of the Islamic State in Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) extremist group, which also goes by the name Islamic State.
“We let the Islamic state build up its money, capability and strength and weapons while it was still in Syria,” Carter said. “Then when [ISIS] moved into Iraq, the Sunni Muslims didn’t object to their being there and about a third of the territory in Iraq was abandoned.”
Carter added that the use of ground troops in addition to the current air campaign could ensure the U.S. succeeds in Iraq. “If we keep on working in Iraq and have some ground troops to follow up when we do our bombing, there is a possibility of success,” he said.
Former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has criticized President Obama in recent days for not pushing harder to keep American troops in Iraq and overrule then-Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
And Hillary Clinton told The Atlantic in August that the Obama administration’s decision not to arm Syrian rebels for fear of weapons falling in the hands of extremists created a “big vacuum” for jihadists to fill.
President Obama acknowledged last month that U.S. intelligence didn’t anticipate the threat that ISIS posed in Iraq but has maintained that arming Syrian rebels would have been untenable, and might have led to militants obtaining arms.