Carter criticizes Obama on ISIS: 'We waited too long'

Story highlights

  • Jimmy Carter described President Obama's foreign policy as shifty
  • The former president said the U.S. "waited too long" to attack ISIS
  • He recommends putting troops on the ground in Syria
Former President Jimmy Carter said President Barack Obama "waited too long" to go after ISIS and criticized what he described as the president's changing foreign policy.
"First of all, we waited too long. We let the Islamic State build up its money, capability and strength and weapons while it was still in Syria," Carter told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram in an interview published Tuesday. The 39th president was in Texas working on a Habitat for Humanity project.
"Then when [ISIS] moved into Iraq, the Sunni Muslims didn't object to their being there and about a third of the territory in Iraq was abandoned," he continued.
The United States has so far led a coalition of countries in airstrike campaigns against ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria. But the militant group has continued to operate, and it's expected to soon capture the key Syrian border city of Kobani.
Carter also argued it would be strategic to have troops on the ground in Syria to help guide the air campaign. Obama, however, has pledged that the United States would not send troops into the country.
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"You have to have somebody on the ground to direct our missiles and to be sure you have the right target," Carter said. "Then you have to have somebody to move in and be willing to fight ISIS after the strikes."
More broadly, Carter criticized Obama's foreign policy, an approach that he says is lacking in "positive action."
"It changes from time to time," Carter said. "I noticed that two of his secretaries of defense, after they got out of office, were very critical of the lack of positive action on the part of the president."
While it's rare for former presidents to critique the sitting president, Carter has been known to offer candid assessments of Democratic and Republican presidents and their administrations.