White House Press Secretary Jay Carney firmly responded to two Republican senators who criticized the administration's Middle East policy in the wake of an Al Qaeda-affiliated group's attack on Iraq.
White House press secretary Jay Carney speaks during the daily briefing at the White House in Washington, Monday, Jan. 6, 2014. With Congress back, the Senate is expected to work on a three-month extension of benefits for the long-term unemployed. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) AP Photo/Susan Walsh
Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina issued a joint statement after the attack on the Iraqi city of Fallujah that said, the “administration cannot escape its share of the blame,” primarily for withdrawing all U.S. troops from Iraq in 2011 before the initial Status of Forces Agreement called for the withdrawal.
“I've heard members of Congress suggest this but if members are suggesting Americans should be fighting and dying in Fallujah, they should say so,” Carney said in response to a question about the McCain-Graham statement. “The president doesn't believe that.”
The two senators also insisted, “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.”
Carney had a similar response.
“If they believe we should not end our combat mission in Afghanistan, they should say so,” Carney said. “Now the president, when it comes to Afghanistan, has made clear that we should and we can have a continuing mission there focused on, solely on, training Afghan troops. But being able to do that requires the Afghan government.”
The Saturday attack on Fallujah was carried out by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly said, “We will stand with the government of Iraq and with others who will push back against their efforts to destabilize.” But Kerry was clear, “We are not contemplating putting boots on the ground.”
Carney said the U.S. has and will continue to assist the government of Iraq with military weaponry to help combat the terrorist.
The McCain and Graham statement was released on Saturday shortly after the attack.
“While many Iraqis are responsible for this strategic disaster, the Administration cannot escape its share of the blame,” the joint statement said. “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. 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.”