The rise of an al Qaeda-inspired insurgency movement currently seizing control of Syria and northern parts of Iraq, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., argued Sunday on "Face the Nation," was preventable at the hands of the United States.
Thanks to the 2007 surge into Iraq that effectively allayed the last great bout of sectarian violence there, "we did have this situation stabilized," McCain said. "We could have left a residual force behind, which would have stabilized the situation.
"This is not like a hurricane or an earthquake; this didn't have to happen," he went on, referring to the meteoric climb of fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) extremist group. "This is a failure of the United States policy. And by the way, there still is none that I can discern - either a policy or strategy - to handle this situation."
McCain said that before turning focus to replacing Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the U.S. must join Iraq's government in performing airstrikes against the militants, who have most recently set their sites on capturing the country's largest oil refinery. He also reiterated his case that that President Obama should authorize more assistance to the Syrian rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, because they're "right now getting very badly beaten."
A video posted online Saturday appeared to show the leader of ISIS delivering a sermon at a mosque - an alarmingly bold move that would mark a rare, if not the first, public staging of the shadowy militant. An Iraqi government spokesman told CBS News the video was fake, but McCain says he harbors "no doubt" that the man in the footage was Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
"Remember, when he left Camp Bucca - the camp that we ran in Iraq - he said, 'See you in New York,'" McCain said. "There's no doubt of what their ambitions are. They state it very clearly. They now have this large enclave, and they are succeeding. And that message is going around, not only around the Arab world, but they're recruiting Muslim extremists as we speak."
Meanwhile, unless Mr. Obama decides to reverse his decision to pull out of Afghanistan by 2017, McCain added, the situation there will deteriorate similarly: He "would never give [Iraq] a number of troops... that they wanted us to leave behind," McCain said. "The president is going to make the same mistake in Afghanistan."
But the turmoil that could erupt in Afghanistan could actually turn out far worse than anything the United States has seen in Syria or Iraq, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., cautioned during the same segment.
"I think the big fear I have about what we're doing in Afghanistan is that we have great capability now; we can watch a part of the world that is a safe haven for terrorists," he said. "Thirteen years after 9/11, there are more safe havens, there are more terrorist groups with more weapons and more capabilities than before 9/11. And we're having less capability, less presence.
"If we get down to 1,000 troops by 2017 and dismantle our eyes and ears in Afghanistan and Pakistan, it will haunt us far worse than Iraq," Graham continued. "We're about to shut down our ability to detect what they're up to and hit them before they hit us. This literally is insane given the way the world has fallen apart."
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