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Thu, 19 Jun 2014 10:26:20 +0000
(WASHINGTON) -- Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel hit back Wednesday at Republican critics who charge the Obama administration with creating the conditions that led to the rise of an Islamic militancy in Iraq.
Testifying before the Senate Appropriations Committee, Hagel said if the GOP wants to pin the blame on anyone, they should fault the Shiite-led Iraqi government for its failure to form a unity government inclusive of Sunnis and Kurds.
The defense chief claimed that the U.S. left the country in good shape when all military forces were withdrawn at the end of 2011.
As for reasons why the Obama administration left no residual troops behind, Hagel said Baghdad offered no legal protections to U.S. soldiers and "they wanted to manage their own country."
General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, concurred, telling lawmakers, "We can train them to fight. We can equip them to fight. But the hardest thing to do is to build [military] leaders and have them appropriately supported by a central government."
The JCS chair added that the U.S. continually warned Iraqi leaders about the growing strength of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria and how national security forces in the north were in danger of fracturing, which is what happened when the ISIS began its offensive.
However, Republican critics remain unconvinced. Arizona Senator John McCain said Wednesday, "The administration and its defenders are now scrambling to plant, pin the blame for this catastrophic failure on anyone but themselves."
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