Former CIA Director David Petraeus said in a new interview that the rise of the Islamic State was "well known" among people monitoring the situation within the U.S. government, and that it was able to flourish amid the chaos of the civil war in Syria.
Former CIA Director David Petraeus speaks at an event for the Institute for National Security Studies at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Jan. 28, 2014, in Tel Aviv. (JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)
"ISIS in a sense is the evolution of an organization that we did defeat, Al Qaeda in Iraq," Petraeus told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in an interview published Monday. "Some of the very hard work we did to help re-establish the fabric of Iraqi society — to bring the Sunni Arabs back into Iraqi society and give them an incentive to support the new Iraq rather than to oppose it — was undone. It created fertile ground once again for the planting of the seeds of extremism and alienated the Sunni Arab component of Iraqi society.
"What really revived Al Qaida in Iraq and turned them into the Islamic State was the civil war in Syria," Petraeus continued. "They grew, gained experience and could identify competent leaders and then begin to capture arms, funding and generate significant resources to enable their expansion. People saw ISIS coming. Even out of the intelligence world, it was well known what ISIS was doing in Syria."
The U.S. has been leading a coalition in bombing Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria, months after President Barack Obama initially dismissed the militant group as "JV."
Petraeus served as CIA director from 2011 to 2012 before resigning following revelations of an extramarital affair.