By Mick Krever, CNN
The United States has travelled a “long road” of “numerous mistakes” in Iraq, Jay Garner, who led America’s post-war Iraq reconstruction efforts in 2003, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday.
“We did a good job getting in and we did a lousy job getting out,” he said. “This is a bed we've been making for the last 11 years.”
As U.S. President Barack Obama weighs how to respond to the Sunni extremist conquest across Iraq, the government in Baghdad formally requested air support from the United States.
That, Garner said, is something America should stay well away from.
“I think what we're seeing right now is an Arab-on-Arab war, we're seeing a religious war, and I don't think we need to get in the middle of that.”
“We’re in a situation there that is a far greater threat to Iran than it is to us in the United States, and I for one do not support putting any air power in there or putting any more troops on the ground than necessary to evacuate our embassy or to protect those people in the embassy.”
The United States, Garner said, should have implemented a federal system of government in Iraq after the 2003 invasion, “and then they would have been ethnically and tribally and religiously comfortable.”
“No one over there wants to be ruled by Baghdad.”
“Then we backed Maliki in 2010, with full knowledge that he's going to disenfranchise the Kurds, persecute the Sunnis and was really a puppet of the Iranians.”
The United States and Iraq failed to agree on a deal to keep the U.S. military in the country after 2011; this, Garner said, jeopardized the “gains and the good work we had done.”
“Then in 2013, we drew the red line in the sand in Syria and then cowardly backed away from it, which told all the militants that we're not going to do anything.”
“And then in 2014, we again backed Maliki with full knowledge of who he was, what he was and the persecution that he was doing.”
Prime Minister Maliki, a Shiite, has been widely accused of stoking sectarian tensions.
Amanpour asked Garner whether the United States should have armed Syria’s moderate opposition early in that conflict, as former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton advocated.
“I agree with that wholeheartedly. If we had done that, I don't think you would see ISIS where they are right now. They'd still be in Syria and they wouldn't be - have the command and control structure and the power that they have right now.”