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ISIS Expert Sets Record Straight On Trump's Accusations Against Obama

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

We're going to take a closer look now at Donald Trump's comments about ISIS and the false claim that President Obama was a founder of the terrorist group. Joby Warrick is a reporter for The Washington Post. He recently won the Pulitzer Prize for his book "Black Flags: The Rise Of ISIS," and we asked him about Trump's comments.

JOBY WARRICK: It's kind of like saying that Ronald Reagan was responsible for the rise of al-Qaida because he helped provide weapons to the mujahedeen in Afghanistan in the 1980s. To suggest that any one person, let alone a president, was responsible for the rise of this terrorist group is just crazy on face.

CORNISH: Warrick says the roots of ISIS actually go back to the group al-Qaida in Iraq. That group formed after the U.S. invasion in 2003 under President George W. Bush. Warrick says one could argue that the total withdrawal of American troops from Iraq allowed ISIS to gain strength. That happened in 2011 under President Obama.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

And as we heard, some have also criticized the Obama administration's handling of the civil war in Syria. But when Trump criticized Hillary Clinton for those decisions and calls her the co-founder of ISIS, Joby Warrick says that's way off base.

WARRICK: Among the president's senior advisers, Hillary Clinton was one of the ones that was pressing the hardest to get, you know, aid for Syrian rebels to begin with in 2011, 2012. She was the one that was pushing for a residual U.S. troop presence in Iraq after 2011, and in some of those arguments, she was overruled by others in the administration. So to kind of blame her for the rise of ISIS just really doesn't compute.

SHAPIRO: Warrick says the true story of the U.S. and ISIS is complicated and nuanced.

WARRICK: You really can make the argument that some of these groups would not have been empowered to begin with if we hadn't invaded Iraq, if the country had been managed properly after the invasion so security didn't break down the way it did. So you can always find things that suggest that U.S. has some responsibility in this. It's absolutely true. The trouble is when you oversimplify and you make this about a single person trying to score points instead of constructing a - you know, a sensible argument.

CORNISH: That's Joby Warrick of The Washington Post. He recently won the Pulitzer Prize for his book "Black Flags: The Rise Of ISIS." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.