George Bush Regrets Giving ISIS 'Al Qaeda Plus' Chance to Rise in Iraq; Australian ISIS Fighter Killed

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Members loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) wave ISIL flags as they drive around Raqqa June 29, 2014.
IN PHOTO: Members loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) wave ISIL flags as they drive around Raqqa June 29, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer

Former United States President George W. Bush regrets only one thing when he decided to invade Iraq. In an interview, Mr Bush said the war in Iraq in 2003 may have paved the way for the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. He also took aim at President Barack Obama and suggested that withdrawal of troops in Iraq had allowed ISIS militants to rise.

The 68-year-old former president told CBS that he does not regret the decision to take military action against Saddam Hussein in 2003. However, he remarked that the event may have allowed ISIS, a "violent group of people," to rise up. He called the extremist group the "Al-Qaeda plus" and expressed his desire for the group to be defeated.

Bush revealed that when he threatened to take military action against Iraq, then-president Hussein did not take his statement seriously. When Hussein was captured, he was told by an FBI agent that Hussein "didn't believe Bush." Mr Bush, who is currently promoting his book which is a biography of his father George H.W. Bush, said it was difficult for him to imagine how Mr Hussein doubted his threat.

The invasion of Iraq in 2003 marked the beginning of the Iraq War which killed half a million people. In December 2011, Mr Obama ordered U.S. troops in Iraq to go home and finally put an end to the U.S. mission in the country.

In the last few years, reports said ISIS began rising to power in Iraq and Syria. ISIS militants began taking control of large swathes of land in both countries until finally in June, the group seized Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq.

Meanwhile, a third Australian has died after fighting alongside ISIS in the past two weeks. The unnamed Australian was believed to be from Sydney and married with children. According to reports, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs said it was still confirming the reports. A foreign ministry spokesperson said in a statement that consular assistance is no longer available in Iraq or Syria due to the "extremely dangerous situation."

Australia has since raised its terror threat level in September and strengthened counter-terrorism measures when authorities conducted raids in Brisbane and Sydney. The Australian government continues to support U.S. airstrikes against ISIS. Special air forces have conducted airstrikes on ISIS targets in an international effort to defeat the extremist group.