Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham slammed the Obama administration on Saturday over the seizure of Fallujah by al-Qaida, calling the move "predictable" and reflective of President Barack Obama's failed policies in the Middle East.
“While many Iraqis are responsible for this strategic disaster, the administration cannot escape its share of the blame," the senators said
in a statement.
McCain, of Arizona, and Graham, who represents South Carolina, both sit on the Senate Armed Services Committee and have long attacked the White House on foreign policy issues.
"When President Obama withdrew all U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011, over the objections of our military leaders and commanders on the ground, many of us predicted that the vacuum would be filled by America's enemies and would emerge as a threat to U.S. national security interests," they said. "Sadly, that reality is now clearer than ever.
"What's sadder still, the thousands of brave Americans who fought, shed their blood, and lost their friends to bring peace to Fallujah and Iraq are now left to wonder whether these sacrifices were in vain," the senators added.
In Baghdad, the head of police forces told The Associated Press
that the Iraqi city of Fallujah had been fully captured by fighters from the al-Qaida-linked Islamic State in Iraq and Levant.
Hadi Razeij, head of the Anbar police force, said that police had completely left the city center entirely and remained on the edge of town.
"The walls of the city are in the hands of the police force, but the people of Fallujah are the prisoners of ISIL," Razeij said on Arabic radio.
Fallujah, along with nearby provincial capital Ramadi, were strongholds of Sunni insurgents during the U.S.-led war. Al-Qaida militants largely took them over earlier this week.
A State Department spokesman expressed concern about the developments to The Hill — and the newspaper quoted
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki as saying, "There will be no retreat until we eliminate this gang and rid the people of Anbar of their evil acts."
In their statement, McCain and Graham noted that "the administration's narrative that Iraq's political leadership objected to U.S. forces remaining in Iraq after 2011 is patently false.
"We know firsthand that Iraq's main political blocs were supportive and that the administration rejected sound military advice and squandered the opportunity to conclude a security agreement with Iraq that could have met U.S. military requirements and helped to consolidate our gains after a decade of war."
The senators noted how the White House has squandered opportunities to stop al-Qaida's move into Syria.
"It has sat by and refused to take any meaningful action, while the conflict has claimed more than 130,000 lives, driven a quarter of the Syrian population from their homes, fueled the resurgence of al-Qaida, and devolved into a regional conflict that now threatens our national security interests and the stability of Syria's neighbors, especially Iraq.
"All of this, too, was predictable," McCain and Graham said.
The senators called on Obama to take stronger action in Afghanistan.
"Talk of a 'zero option' must be dismissed as the surest way to squander all of our hard-won gains, thereby allowing Afghanistan to re-emerge as a safe haven for al-Qaida and its terrorist allies," they said. "President Obama finally needs to decide on the missions and troop levels necessary to secure U.S. national security interests and support our Afghan partners beyond 2014."
They also said the administration needed to make final the security agreement reached with Afghanistan in November. The United States had warned Kabul
that lacking a final accord could lead it to withdraw troops by the end of this year.
“The Administration must recognize the failure of its policies in the Middle East and change course," McCain and Graham said. "America has lost time, options, influence, and credibility over the past five years, and we cannot afford to remain disengaged any longer."
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