Donald Trump Doesn't Understand ISIS Or Who Created It

10/15/2016 11:53 am ET Updated Oct 16, 2017

Donald Trump repeatedly makes the false claim that President Obama founded ISIS. This is absolutely absurd by any stretch of how he tries to spin it. But where did ISIS come from?

ISIS is in Iraq and Syria and many other countries. Trump likes to state that the vacuum the was left after the US troops withdrew from Iraq under Obama resulted in the creation of ISIS. This is not what happened and the growth of ISIS can be traced back decades.

The Backdrop

When the Grand Mosque in Mecca was seized in November 1979, Saudi Arabia decided that to appeal to the religious right, the ruling family would support the strict version of Islam commonly known as Wahhabism (or known in Saudi Arabia as muwahhidun, which is the 'oneness of god'). The next month in December 1979, after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan the Saudi Arabia government encouraged many disaffected youth to take up arms in Afghanistan, fulfilling their pledge to encourage religious extremism. At the same time, Saudi Arabia funded mosques and madrassas all over the world to promote this extreme version of Islam.

Throughout the 1980s, mujahideen, or holy warriors, flocked to Afghanistan to support their fellow Muslims. The most famous was probably Osama bin Laden. Shortly after the end of the war when the USSR left Afghanistan in 1989, Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. This was a good opportunity for Bin Laden and his database of soldiers, many of whom saw little action in Afghanistan, to come to the defense of Kuwait. Bin Laden was rebuffed and the US led coalition was chosen. That database of soldiers is where the name Al Qaeda comes from; Al Qaeda means "the base."

Al Qaeda was then active throughout the 1990s and peaked in 2001. After the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the US invaded under false pretenses Iraq in search of WMD. On 9/11, there were no WMD in Iraq and Al Qaeda was not operating in Iraq either. After the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, Al Qaeda flocked to Iraq to attack and kill US troops. Over the presidency of George W. Bush, the war in Iraq became unpopular at home and in Iraq. A withdrawal timetable was created and US troops were scheduled by President Bush to leave Iraq in 2011.

ISIS Is Born

Several of the terrorists, mainly Abu Musab al-Zarqawi who in Jordan in 1999 founded Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, which had a partnership with Al Qaeda; Zarqawi renamed his organization Al Qaeda in Iraq. He fought against the US in Iraq starting in 2003-2004, which eventually led to different objectives and his new faction eventually called itself Islamic State in 2006, well before Obama was president. Eventually, IS made their way over to Syria, which was becoming a failed state starting in March 2011. Concurrently, after the US left Iraq in 2011 IS moved east into Iraq in 2013 from Syria and started calling itself ISIS. It was now the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. With the dictatorships that created stability in Middle East collapsing, eventually, ISIS grew and its reach went beyond Syria and Iraq. ISIS was renamed to ISIL, which meant Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Now some people just refer to the organization just as Islamic State.

So, the claim that President Obama created ISIS/ISIL/IS is just not a reflection of what happened in reality.

Paul Heroux is a state representative from Massachusetts on the Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security. He lived and worked in the Middle East, and worked in jail and prison. He has master's degrees in international relations, criminology, and public administration. Paul can be reached at PaulHeroux.MPA@gmail.com.