The Obama administration does not have a clear strategy for defeating insurgents taking over Iraq's cities, Sen. John McCain and other members of the Senate Armed Services Committee said Tuesday after a closed-door meeting.
"They have no strategy, nor could they articulate a strategy to counter what our intelligence estimates say will be a direct threat to the United States," the Arizona Republican said of the meeting, where members heard from Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, reports The Hill.
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McCain, who refused to give exact details of the meeting because of its classified status, called the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the Sunni extremist group that now controls most of the border with Syria, the "largest enclave of terrorism in history on the Iraq/Syria border."
"There is no strategy for countering" the threat, "no strategy whatsoever," the senator says in a video posted by C-SPAN.
Story continues below video.
Dempsey said last week that Baghdad's forces likely could not recapture ground lost to ISIS, which has taken over several Iraqi cities, including Mosul, possibly opening the door for further U.S. intervention. President Barack Obama has already announced he is sending roughly 800 troops into Iraq to consult with the nation's military forces.
But critics like McCain and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina both came out of Tuesday's meeting saying that they were not encouraged by what they heard from Hagel and Dempsey.
Graham advocates sending in airstrikes against ISIS, including launching a bombing campaign in Syria.
"No one gave us a scenario where the safe haven they enjoy ... could be eradicated without some American force," Graham said after Tuesday's meeting. "Name a force that could dislodge these people and deny them their safe haven in the region that doesn’t include American air power."
Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia also said the role of the United States remains unclear in the Middle East and North Africa, including "what our mission is at this time … after 12½
years, there's still a lot of questions."
Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, also said the solutions for the Iraqi situation are "complicated," but she believes the White House has plans for containing ISIS.
The Obama administration, she said, is being "appropriately cautious and careful because there is not a one-size-fits-all solution in the Middle East right now."
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