The current situation in Iraq is the unfortunate consequence of a combination of factors: a lengthy, U.S.-led war in the region, an Iraqi military unable to contain its opposition, and growing support for the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shams (ISIS), the organization that seeks to create a radical Islamic state within both Syria and Iraq.
According to the Daily Mail, another factor may have contributed to the ability of ISIS to capture Iraqi cities such as Tikrit and Mosul: the capture and release of the organization's leader by American forces. Abu Bakr al Baghdadi was a captive at the now-closed detention facility Camp Bucca near Umm Qasr in Iraq. Al Baghdadi was held at that location for four years before being released by the Obama Administration in 2009. He now serves as the leader of the militant organization that has reintroduced chaotic violent throughout the already war-torn nation.
Today, President Obama commented on the situation, assuring the nation that no American troops would be sent to Iraq but that the U.S.’s National Security Council would be seeking other ways to respond to the growing Sunni insurgency. He made no direct mention of al Bagdadi nor his former status as a prisoner in an American facility.
Information about al Baghdadi’s capture and release is relatively unknown to the public, although the most likely explanation is that the former prisoner was granted amnesty as the United States prepared to pull out of Iraq.
It is also possible that the leader only became a radical jihadist after his imprisonment. As The Telegraph notes, al Baghdadi was born Ibrahim Ali al-Badri in the city of Samarrah, became a farmer and was possibly arrested in a “mass sweep” that occurred in 2005. Others, however, have claimed that he held radical views even during the reign of Saddam Hussein.
Now that he’s been released, the FBI has made him one of the world’s most wanted terrorists by placing a $10 million bounty on him. As the situation in Syria and Iraq grows increasingly violent and unstable, ISIS, the Iraqi government, and the rest of the world will be watching to see how the U.S. becomes involved.