Entrevista a funcionarios y académicos estadounidenses Politico Magazine, julio/agosto 2015 Michael Crowley
Did George W. Bush create the Islamic State? Did Barack Obama? We asked the insiders to tell us who’s to blame.
For a brief, happy—and misguided—moment, most Americans stopped thinking about Iraq. After withdrawing the last U.S. troops in 2011, President Barack Obama declared the country “sovereign, stable and self-reliant.” No such luck. Iraq plunged back into chaos as the Islamic State stormed the region last year, and the fall of Ramadi in May revived questions about how, and whether, the country can be salvaged.
As Americans try to understand what $2 trillion and nearly 4,500 American lives really accomplished, partisans are battling over how much blame falls on Obama, who left Iraq, and on President George W. Bush, who took us there. “If you fought in Iraq, it worked,” 2016 presidential candidate Lindsey Graham recently said. “It’s not your fault it’s going to hell. It’s Obama’s fault.” Naturally, Democrats see it differently: “This represents the failed policies that took us down this path 10 years ago,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has said.
Who’s right? Could Iraq have remained stable if Obama had left behind a small troop contingent? Did Bush’s “surge” really stabilize the country? In June, Politico Magazine assembled a dozen experts—including veterans of both administrations from the State Department, White House, Pentagon and the CIA—and asked a simple question: Who lost Iraq? —Michael Crowley
Michael Crowley: Ambassador Khalilzad, you were in Iraq from 2005 to 2007. Describe the trajectory Iraq was on when you left, and the Iraq that Obama inherited when he was inaugurated in January 2009.
Zalmay Khalilzad: It was a very difficult period. Especially in the aftermath of the al-Askari Mosque bombing in 2006, the sectarian violence became front and center—a very large number of fatalities and causalities, both Shia and Sunni—and the rise of Al Qaeda in Iraq. We began a more concerted effort training Iraqi troops, which resulted in significant growth in their size and capabilities. The new Iraqi government led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki showed more willingness to use force against the Shia militias in Basra and Baghdad’s Sadr City. Additionally, the excesses committed by Al Qaeda in Iraq against the Sunni community was beginning to turn some Sunnis against them. With increased outreach to the Sunnis, we began to have significant numbers of them work with us.
There were still some issues unresolved—there was no oil law for the distribution of resources, there still was no reform of de-Baathification. These were self-inflicted wounds, if you like—mistakes we made, in my judgment, at the very beginning. But I think the Iraqis were heading in the right direction. You had a government that acquired greater national legitimacy. There was a greater Sunni participation in government compared to an earlier period. The level of violence, by the end of the Bush administration, was significantly down compared to 2006, early 2007.
We’re still talking about Iraq, but relatively speaking, I would say it was on a positive trajectory with some big issues still unresolved.
Kim Kagan: The security situation in Iraq was dramatically improved by operations conducted by surge troops—violence in Baghdad and in Iraq fell dramatically over the course of 2007. And in 2008, U.S. forces partnered with the Iraqi security forces, pushed AQI out of Baghdad, out of Diyala and all the way to Mosul, where the Al Qaeda elements were greatly reduced over time by follow-on operations and special forces operations. The Shia militias, which posed a threat to the sovereignty of the Iraqi government, had been greatly diminished by the operations that Prime Minister Maliki and U.S. forces undertook in 2008 and were no longer militarily viable within Iraq.
The two main threats to Iraqi state security had been significantly diminished by 2008 and over the course of 2009. Our U.S. forces were handing over security to Iraqi security forces, such that U.S. forces came out of the major cities of Iraq, and handed responsibility for those cities back to the Iraqi security forces. One of the principles behind the way that the U.S. had constructed its surge operations was that the U.S. had special tie-in capabilities that the Iraqi security forces did not have, because they were still growing, still developing skills. So clearing cities was something the U.S. did with Iraqi security forces’ support.
As those cities became more peaceful, as the population returned, as AQI left, the Iraqi security forces could handle the security environment in the urban centers. But AQI was not destroyed. It had not lost the will to fight. It was potentially reduced from an organization that had high-end terrorist capabilities that could threaten the state, to an insurgency, a group that had very limited capacity to act as a terrorist organization, but still had some will to fight, and still had some organization, some command and control left over, primarily in the Mosul area.
MC: John, what did the threat to the U.S. or western interests in the region emanating from Iraq look like at the time Obama took office?
John McLaughlin: If you go all the way back to 2008, the Arab Spring or Awakening was still years away. In 2008, Al Qaeda central was on the run but not defeated. We were still very much on guard against attacks on the United States; we were just two years after detecting the attempt by Al Qaeda-related people to put together an operation over the Atlantic out of London—the planes plot. So Al Qaeda in that period is still very dangerous but not particularly noteworthy insofar as its capability in Iraq was seen.
MC: Ambassador Hill, you get to Iraq at the start of Obama’s first term. What does that Iraq look like—is it on a trajectory to a place where it can stand on its own?
Chris Hill: There was perhaps more optimism than the facts might have justified. For example, there was a view that somehow Maliki had gotten in the saddle, that he understood the need for outreach to the various groups and was prepared to continue the payments to the so-called Sons of Iraq. There was an overall kind of optimistic mood, but I must say, in talking to the Sunni leaders who were part of his cabinet, you certainly didn’t get the sense there was any reason to be optimistic. You certainly got the impression when you talked to people that it wasn’t going well. Going out to Anbar, for example, and talking to Sunni sheiks out there, they were all prepared to work together in a kind of all-in Sunni party, but you certainly didn’t get the impression they were cutting Baghdad any slack or cutting Maliki any slack.
Overall, I found it surprisingly peaceful, in terms of kinetic stuff on the ground. But from the point of view of listening to politicians, no one was prepared to say that things were better—and, in fact, many of them felt that things were getting worse.
MC: Brian, you were on the Obama campaign. Did you guys come to Iraq with the assumption that it couldn’t be saved, so we had to get out and let it fend for itself? Or was the thinking that Iraq was ready to stand on its own?
Brian Katulis: That was a central focus: How does Iraq actually achieve or build on the security gains of the surge? It’s true that the addition of U.S. forces in 2007 had an impact in changing security dynamics, but there were other factors too—including a pretty massive sectarian cleansing campaign that had happened in Baghdad from 2006 to 2008. These issues of power sharing, which Ambassador Hill alluded to, were nowhere close to being resolved.
We did a report in late 2008 that analyzed where Iraq stood in terms of its power-sharing and politics. That was always one of the key fundamental rationales for the surge—that it would open the door to power-sharing. Our conclusion was that it had not, and that many of the grievances of the Sunni community had not been adequately addressed. There’s an absence of political framework to this day that deals with the grievances of Sunni communities in Iraq and in Syria. That sense of injustice, corruption and poor governance actually provides an opening for groups like AQI and ISIL.
Essentially for a dozen years, the U.S. has been searching for an overarching strategy for its engagement, not only in Iraq but the broader Middle East. One of the consequences of the 2003 Iraq War was that—largely unintended—we upended a policy of dual containment of Iran and Iraq. That inadvertently facilitated the expansion of Iranian influence in the region. Our presence in Iraq created a massive rallying cry and recruitment tool and live training ground for all the sorts of types of groups that we’re now still dealing with. I remember Ambassador Khalilzad even telling how he joked to Iranians about how he eliminated two of their biggest adversaries, the Taliban of Afghanistan and then Iraq.
Collectively, this is the Humpty Dumpty problem—how do we put it all back together again? I’m not blaming the U.S. solely or the Iraq War itself, but I do see often a fixation on the tactical elements. We see this today—do we send 10,000 or 20,000 more troops to train Sunni tribes in Iraq? That to me begs the question of what is the overarching political framework that would be sustainable for the communities that feel the sense of grievances, that feel like there hasn’t been power-sharing for decades?
MC: Should I take from your answer that Iraq was not salvageable when Obama came into office?
BK: The primary responsibility lies in the hands of Maliki and the Iraqi leadership that did not seize the moment. We could blame various U.S. officials, but the leaders of these countries are responsible for the fundamental dynamics. We can help. We’ve given them an opportunity. Did they seize it? The answer, I think, is no.
KK: President Obama and Prime Minister Maliki share blame and responsibility for the developments in Iraq from 2010 onward. The Iraqi security forces were strained much earlier than January 2014, when Fallujah fell. ISIL systematically not only conducted spectacular attacks, but deliberately undermined the Iraqi security forces. After the “waterfall” withdrawal of American troops over the course of 2010, and the complete withdrawal of troops at the end of 2011, the Iraqi security forces were not continually being developed. Nor were they being supported by some of the unique capabilities we as Americans can bring to the battlefield—like intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, continued training in how to do operational planning, and how to replenish the Iraqi security forces, which were taking causalities.
But Prime Minister Maliki bears responsibility. He did not employ the Iraqi security forces effectively. He did not put enough leadership in charge of Iraqi security forces. And he did not design—or allow to be designed—good operations to respond to Al Qaeda in Iraq.
By August 2013, the Iraqi security forces were no longer combat-effective—they had taken so many losses, they were not commanded and controlled well—and that should have been an early indicator to us in Washington that something needed to be done, and that they faced a threat of a magnitude that the Iraq security forces could not handle.
MC: Last August, President Obama said the withdrawal from Iraq was not “my decision.” There’s a debate as to whether the Iraqis would have tolerated an enduring American presence, and Obama officials say probably not. Is the question of whether Obama lost Iraq moot because the Iraqis would not have allowed us to stay in substantial numbers? Or could he have done more, politically, to accomplish that?
ZK: I have talked to Prime Minister Maliki about that period, and I’ve talked to the defense minister of Iraq and others. And they say they wanted some number of U.S. troops to stay, but what they didn’t want to do is to go to Parliament on this issue of immunity that we required, and that this was entangled in part of the domestic Iraqi politics. From our side, on the other hand, President Obama insisted on a Parliament-approved agreement giving our troops immunity. Could we have worked out something? It’s hard for me to judge.
CH: The issue of a residual troop presence is to some extent a little too much American solipsism—that it’s all about us and our troop presence. But, nonetheless, I found many Iraqis, including senior politicians, who were prepared to say to one group of people, “Yes, we want to see American troops,” and then they would say an hour later to another group, “No, we don’t want American troops.” I’m not sure the Iraqis were entirely committed or entirely honest about saying whether they wanted troops or not.
I found this across the board—where they would say one thing to one person and another thing to another person. Especially for visitors coming from Washington, Iraqis had this sort of feeling they should say what they were expected to say, and I’m not sure it’s necessarily what they believed.
In getting there in April 2009, I certainly had the impression the Iraqis were very much conflicted about the idea of a continuing American role. When Maliki announced that American troops would no longer be in the populated areas, there was such a note of pride in his voice—the infidels have been forced to retreat. The key is that the politics of Iraq didn’t necessarily line up with what I would consider their best interests.
And finally, I’d like to say in regard to the Sunnis—there’s no question the Sunni community felt aggrieved in how Maliki handled things, how the Shia generally handled things, but I think to understand the Sunni perspective is not just that of an aggrieved minority. I think they feel like they have a kind of strategic depth that goes all the way through the Middle East. And that strategic depth that the Sunnis have should have come to bear in sort of pressuring the majority Shia in Iraq. Like all things in Iraq, I think it was more complicated.
JM: I think there’s danger in focusing too narrowly on things like Maliki’s behavior, the [Status of Forces] agreement, and so forth. To ask the question “who lost Iraq?” is not a fair question. To focus on it that way is a little like saying, “How do we explain Hitler?” “Well, let’s look at the 1932 elections.” I would pull the camera back here a little bit. All of those were factors in what brought us to the Iraq of today. Certainly, it’s beyond dispute that Maliki failed to reach out appropriately to the Sunni community. It’s beyond dispute that the training of soldiers doesn’t equip them to fight; it’s the will that equips them to fight. There’s a big difference between training and the will to fight. All that is true.
But if you pull the camera back here, remember that in 2011, we had the Arab Awakening and remember that Syria went drastically bad, largely because of [Syrian President Bashar] Assad’s reaction to what were legitimate protests in the area. Syria is about 70 percent Sunni and that is the real engine that is drawing in fighters for ISIL at something like 1,000 a month.
Think of it in concentric circles: We’ve been talking about the innermost circle—all of the stuff going on around Maliki and the SOFA agreement and so forth. Take the next circle out and look more broadly at the region. You have the magnetic power of the Syrian uprising gone bad, pulling in fighters who are going to affiliate with someone. If it was not ISIL, I suspect it would have been al-Nusra—which, for a period of time in 2012 or so, remember, our focus was really on al-Nusra, which seemed to be surging at that point in northeast Syria and making dramatic gains. ISIL came in and exploited that, and that’s another story.
Then if you pull the camera back even further, a third concentric circle out, you really have to say—I risk sounding too much like an academic here—but you’ve got to go back to Sykes-Picot, which created the modern Middle East. We’re still dealing with the aftermath of lines drawn in the sands in 1916. It’s taken 100 years of sectarian turmoil to control for a good period of that time, but ultimately, breaking through to get us to this point. All of that is in the mix here. Perhaps among the sparks were the behavior of Maliki and our failure to get a SOFA agreement and so forth, but I think the whole issue of how Iraq ended up where it is has to take all of those broader factors into consideration as well.
MC: Brian, were there mistakes that even President Obama would concede at this point?
BK: Yes, absolutely. I think those problems many of us identified—a lack of political unity and power-sharing inside of Iraq—the administration attempted to work on those issues, but the real question is: Did it actually have a strategy that could have produced the result? Was it as high of a priority as other issues that came up? This is at a time in the administration where the overall theme was to try to pivot beyond the challenges of the Middle East, that we had spent more than a decade investing a lot of our money, time and effort, and that we wanted to move beyond that. One of the biggest mistakes is just relative inattention. Iraq, inside the Obama White House, just became less of a focus.
Then look at the 2012 reelection campaign and some of the statements made about Iraq. When you measure it against what was happening with the Maliki government and what was happening on the ground, there’s a gap between the two. Even on the eve of ISIL taking over Fallujah, you had statements coming from the White House that downgraded and downplayed the threat that ISIL posed.
Quite certainly, 2014 was a wake-up call for everyone; I think the administration more or less has got the right re-engagement strategy here. These problems that John McLaughlin identified, the broader historical trends, I think this president has a deep appreciation for that, and that’s why they’ve been very cautious and largely judicious, but there are big gaps even to this day in their strategies. Syria is one of them. You can’t talk about Iraq without linking the problem of Syria, because ISIL certainly does.
Yes, mistakes were made, a larger part of it was—not just a sense of exhaustion—but this sense of, “OK, we have a different set of strategic priorities as a country, we want to invest in other parts of the world.” When you look back with 20-20 hindsight, they downgraded Iraq way too much, even at a time of turmoil and chaos with the Arab uprisings.
JM: I would say that that mistake occurred in the context of a larger mistake that was taking place roughly during the 2011 to 2013 time frame—that was more broadly to underestimate the remaining power of Al Qaeda or extremism generally. This was a period when people were talking in the administration, and more broadly, about “strategic defeat of terrorism” and so forth. Yet, if one looks at that time, and many of us were saying this at the time, there were at least three trends at the time that were enlivening the movement.
Then the third thing was—I believed and tried to document a couple times that this was a period when terrorists were going to school on what had not worked for them up to that point. You look at documents that came out of Mali, the French operation there, you look at what al-Nusra was doing, what Al Qaeda was doing in Yemen—they were going to school on their failure to be able to hold sway over populations in areas they occupied, saying, we have to think about governing a little bit here—picking up the trash, having people not being so harsh with Sharia law.
All of those trends were operating at a time when I think the administration was starting to relax a little too much about the terrorist threat.
ZK: One other factor that needs to be taken into account is the intense regional competition and Shia-Sunni dimension. Frankly, in the decision-making that took place, this dimension was not adequately taken into account in terms of both effect and its implications. On balance, the administration was caught flat-footed with regard to it.
With the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq, a vacuum was created, which the regional powers would like to fill. They did it by aligning with different internal forces in particular in Iraq, but you also see it in Syria. The result was the Turks moving closer to the Kurds and some Sunni groups, the Saudis developing relations with the other Sunnis, with Iran coming in more heavily. Iran had benefited from some of what happened in Iraq, but in the aftermath of our withdrawal, their relative influence further increased.
If we look forward from where we are, I don’t think you can solve the situation in Iraq and Syria without the regional players, whose roles have become much more important in shaping things. Our role, somewhat diminished—although still the most important external power—has to be taken into account and addressed.
CH: All of that is absolutely true—this idea that the administration failed to address these broader Sunni-Shia issues—but I think part of it had to do with this big roll-out of the “pivot strategy.” The pivot strategy, to pay more attention to Asia, was sound in that regard, but it created unintended consequences. The chief unintended consequence was that we no longer cared about the machinations of the Middle East. And if you combine that with some of the U.S. energy strategy, with the development of fracking and all of this, there’s a perception that somehow the Middle East was yesterday’s news—and moreover, someone else’s news. I think there was a definite sense that America was moving on.
KK: The White House adopted a strategy of partnership with countries in the Middle East that was not genuine partnership. The White House strategy was one of outsourcing, in the sense that because the strategy had pivoted to Asia—the idea was that local players and regional players could and should supervise the dynamics of the region. Partnership with American leadership is a strategy that may succeed in some circumstances, but partnership without American leadership has led to this competition between the Saudis and the Iranians, between the Turks and the Egyptians, and, rather than actually empowering regional leaders to take action consistent with the interests of the United States, has actually accelerated the regional conflict in the Middle East.
BK: I largely agree with a lot of those points. I think, in 2015, the Middle East is in this particularly intense period of multipolar and multidimensional conflict with itself; actors are using resources—it’s not just arming and equipping proxies in various places—but also offering all types of economic support in places like Iraq and Syria. An important point to make is that the U.S. leadership still is desired. This anti-ISIL coalition offers an important opportunity not yet seized—to channel the energies, the resources of those actors in the region to more constructive ends.
The problem is that we still are in a very tactical and reactive crisis-management mode. There’s very little discussion about: How do all of these efforts—the U.S. now back from being disengaged—how does it use its leadership to drive toward some sort of well-defined end state, both in Iraq and then especially in Syria? The two problems are now combined. That’s the opportunity Washington needs to discuss, rather than just react to serious setbacks like Ramadi and Palmyra. How do we use this conversation to do things like drive toward the political consensus that is so obviously missing when we can’t get an Authorization for the Use of Military Force 10 months into an air campaign?
MC: Brian, for all kinds of understandable reasons we’ve talked a lot about mistakes made since 2009. They’re fresher in memory. But a lot of Democrats consider the original sin the invasion of Iraq. Is the nightmare we’re seeing an outgrowth of an ill-advised decision to invade Iraq in 2003? Is that the unavoidable truth here?
BK: Look, in the ending of our longstanding policy strategy—the containment of Iran and Iraq—we have inadvertently unleashed a lot of forces, and a lot of those forces were poised in any case to explode, given the demographic and social and political challenges. So, yes, there was the original sin of the 2003 Iraq War, but let’s remind everybody that a lot of Democrats were themselves implicated in that, in votes in Congress. What the Iraq War did, especially starting in 2005 and 2006—it made Americans much more divided, and it made our national security debate overall much more caustic. I say this as someone who quite frankly engaged in some of this back then, and I don’t think it was all very helpful in terms of defining what the end goal could be.
That worries me. I brought up AUMF because it is a debate that in our Congress, whether Republican or Democrat, there are very few voices that have been stalwarts in saying, “We need to define this.” I see the AUMF issue not just as the right legal authority, but how do we actually have a national debate on national security on Iraq, Syria and ISIL? The problem isn’t just Republican versus Democrat, right?
There’s a fracturing in the consensus among internationalists within both parties. It’s a struggle for the definition of how do Americans interact with the rest of the world, including the Middle East, in these complicated and dangerous sets of issues? I don’t know that our 2016 debate will resolve this. My hope is that we can remove the deadlock and the stasis that exists within both parties. Some of that is the consequence of the perception that somehow politicians think in this country that the costs of making national security questions a partisan wedge issue, in fights on the Hill and in election campaigns, are low. I think actually the costs are pretty high, and that’s the gridlock we have on AUMF.
ZK: It is a problem inside both parties and across the two parties. I wholeheartedly endorse that. Having said that, I do believe that there are a few things that we need to take into account in that debate and that this is a different, a changed situation—the old Middle East prior to Iraq wasn’t working well, and inducing crises and threats, and a new one and current one is also doing the same—but it’s different. The difference is this ISIL threat is a serious threat, bigger in many ways than Al Qaeda was, and we need to have a strategy for containing and ultimately defeating it. That’s the military part, but there’s a need for a regional compact, and we need much more of an act of diplomacy to move things toward an understanding among the regional players. I would put equal importance on the nuclear dialogue with Iran and the regional strategy and politics of Iran, because, in part, the Iranian push for domination has caused the suffering that Brian talked about earlier, and, in part, the response has been this extremist terrorist thing.
Also, the policies of Saudis and the Turks have been a response, in part, to the crisis now emanating from this region. The threat has become so great—now there’s a dangerous Saudi-Iranian war over Yemen—can our diplomacy, working with allies, bring about a dialogue to have some rules of the game agreed to among the regional players? I don’t think you begin to address the challenges of this area without a regional understanding addressing some of the longstanding issues, such as the Shia-Sunni divide, how the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia don’t accept the Shiites as Muslim. We can’t unilaterally produce those, but I think we need to bring together the people who can. We don’t have a strategy, we don’t have a plan and we’re not as engaged on that in my view.
CH: We have to construct a strategy looking forward, and Zalmay is quite right that we have a Sunni-Shia divide. I would not assume that ISIL is a product of Maliki not giving enough ministerial portfolio to the Sunnis. Certainly, Maliki could have done more with Sunni outreach, but ISIL represents a broader issue in the Middle East. We need a broader strategy, we need to be talking to the Saudis, talking to the Iranians—not just about nuclear things but about broader issues because that’s where the competition is going on right now. We need to deal with it, and certainly our country needs to be able to do more than one thing at a time, to talk about the pivot and to talk about the need for broader security arrangements in the Middle East.
I don’t think Syria can be solved with more guns. We need political arrangements. Only through political arrangements, not through provisional elections and provisional governments and provisional constitutional laws, but only through lasting political arrangements can you get people to stop and get people out of their foxholes. Only then can you really identify moderates. These issues are all connected—Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria—and I do think we need some broader strategies.
JM: Two places to start, because you can’t do everything at once, that are essential to a good outcome—one military, the other diplomatic. On the military side, territory has to be taken back from ISIL—if we don’t do that, they continue to have a caliphate, they continue to have stature, they continue to develop recruits and continue to have credibility.
Second, diplomatically, along the lines of what Chris just said, I don’t know if any of us have the formula, but the way has to be found to meet, satisfy, respond to the grievances of the Sunnis, who comprise as I said earlier, about 70 percent of Syria and roughly 25 percent or thereabouts of Iraq. That is probably a political and diplomatic job. The U.N. is hacking away at it, not too successfully. Someone needs to put together a strategy that might in the case of Syria combine some military pressure with some intense, what I called at one point, “heroic diplomatic activity.”
One nightmare we haven’t talked about: What if ISIL gets into Damascus? That would be the ultimate nightmare. We talked about in various places the possibility of getting into Baghdad. Assad is weakening, and you don’t want that regime to come to that end; you want that to come to some other end that we have some control over.
MC: Kim, Jeb Bush was confronted at a campaign event by a young woman who said, “Your brother created ISIS.” Her theory was that disbanding the Iraqi military in 2003 was the worst decision here, in that the Islamic State relies heavily on the expertise of these disenfranchised former Baathist Iraqi military guys. Does that still resonate as a kind of tragic mistake, setting these well-trained military guys loose on the country?
KK: President Bush made mistakes, quite a lot of them, in 2003. But I think that focusing on the idea of an original sin to assign blame takes us away from what the discussion in Washington must be right now. We are in 2015—we face a threat in Iraq, in Syria, indeed a global threat in ISIL, we face a global threat in Al Qaeda and its affiliates, and our discussion in Washington needs to move away from discussion of blame, responsibility and original sin, and focus on what should come.
One question is: Is Iraq lost? It is a supposition of this discussion that someone is responsible for losing Iraq. We still as the United States of America, the Iraqis still, the world still has opportunities to shape and change the situation, such that the question of who lost Iraq shouldn’t be on our minds. The question on our minds should be: How is it that we, the United States, can construct a strategy that will bring sufficient security to the Middle East that our own interests and our own homeland are no longer threatened to this degree?
This conversation has been condensed and lightly edited.
 U.S. Ambassador to Iraq from 2005 to 2007.
 Founder and president of the Institute for the Study of War, former adviser to Generals: John Allen, Stanley McChrystal and David Petraeus.
 Deputy Director of the CIA from 2000 to 2004.
 U.S. ambassador to Iraq from 2009 to 2010.
 Senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.