Lt. Gen. (ret.) Michael Flynn, former head of the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) from 2012 to 2014, told CNN on Tuesday that US President Barack Obama ignored a report in 2012 about the rise of Islamic State (ISIS) because it didn’t meet his reelection “narrative.”
Flynn just this Sunday told the German Der Spiegel that the US was “dumb” to release Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi back in 2004, classifying him as “harmless” and allowing him to go on to form ISIS.
On Tuesday, CNN’s Jake Tapper asked Flynn – who is the former director of intelligence for the Joint Special Operations Command in Iraq and Afghanistan – about a now-declassified report the DIA submitted in 2012, that “seems to have predicted the rise of ISIS.”
Tapper noted that not long after the report Obama famously called ISIS a “JV team” compared to Al Qaeda – right before ISIS took off and captured huge swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria. “Do you feel your warnings were ignored?,” posed the host.
“I think they did not meet a particular narrative that the White House needed, I’ll be candid with you,” replied Flynn. “I have said, and I believe, that people that were around the president, the inner circle advising him, advised him incorrectly.”
Detailing Obama’s “narrative” back in 2012 during his reelection campaign, the military expert said, “I think the narrative was that Al Qaeda was on the run, (Osama) Bin Laden was dead… you know, we’ve beaten them.”
Flynn added that the US has killed more Islamist terror leaders “than we can say, and they continue to multiply,” calling to recognize that the fight is against a radical ideology and not “a bunch of criminals.”
“It’s Obama’s responsibility to get the facts”
When asked about accusations that the reports from the ground were tweaked by “people up the line” before reaching Obama to make it sound like ISIS was weaker than it really was, Flynn maintained that the president is responsible for getting accurate information.
“I believe the role of intelligence and the importance of intelligence begins at the very top of our government, the president sets the priorities. If he feels like he’s getting poor intelligence, then he needs to either, you know, find different people or he needs to figure out what’s the matter with the system that is in place, because that is a huge system, it’s the best in the world if it’s focused properly.”
Flynn asserted that complaints about “abuse of the system…all goes back to the White House. Because the White House, the president has to say, hey, I need the best – whatever it is that you have, I want the unvarnished truth, that’s what I want.”
“And if I am not getting unvarnished truth, I need to basically find it from other people that will give it to me. If he’s getting something that he – that those that are around him want him to hear versus what he needs to hear, he’s going to make poor decisions.”
The talk of complaints refers to a group of 50 US Central Command intelligence analysts, who earlier this year filed a formal complaint that their reports were being distorted to falsely portray that the US was beating ISIS in Syria.
Obama has been harshly condemned even by his own party for his handling of ISIS, and back in June he admitted that he does not have “a complete strategy” to fight ISIS.
The president showed further poor assessment last month, when right before the lethal ISIS attacks in Paris that left 130 murdered he said the US had “contained” the jihadist group. Obama likewise said immediately after the attack that it was a “setback,” but that he had the “right strategy” to defeat the group.