Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham called for U.S. air strikes on Iraqi insurgents Thursday while urging the Obama administration to immediately withdraw U.S. embassy staff in Baghdad to prevent "another Benghazi."
The South Carolina senator made his appeal moments after he had left a top-secret Senate Armed Services Committee briefing, where he was told information about the extremists that "scared the hell out of me," according to The Hill
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Violent Sunni fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are closing in on Baghdad after capturing two key cities, taking Mosul and Tikrit, while thousands of Iraqi forces have laid down their weapons.
"There is no scenario where we can stop the bleeding in Iraq without American air power," Graham said, echoing calls from GOP Arizona Sen. John McCain. "If American airpower is not interjected into the equation, I don’t see how you stop these people."
He said the al-Qaida-inspired militants were approaching Baghdad "very rapidly" and urged the State Department to withdrawal all its personnel from the American embassy there.
"We’ve got another Benghazi in the making here," Graham said. Four Americans were killed at a U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, in September 2012.
Graham, who has been outspoken proponent for a long-term military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan, told The Washington Post
that he understood that Americans were "war-weary" and "tired of dealing" with the Mideast.
"But the people that are moving into Iraq and holding ground in Syria have as part of their agenda not only to drive us out of the Mideast, but to hit our homeland," he said, according to the Post.
While suggesting that Iraqi security forces would have been better equipped to handle the war against the jihadists with a U.S. military contingent in the country, Graham said that President Barack Obama should rescind his plan to pull out all troops from Afghanistan by January 2017.
"What you see in Iraq is going to surely happen in Afghanistan at a faster pace," said Graham, who also urged Obama to address the nation about the crisis in the Middle East.
The Hill reported that the senator called for the resignation of Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki while warning that the United States must not just "let things play out" because it would be a "disaster regionally."
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