McCain: Obama ‘squandered’ military gains in Iraq

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) lectured the administration Thursday on how it has squandering U.S. military gains in Iraq by pulling out troops too early.

“Here we are 10 years later and al Qaeda fighters have raised their black flags above Fallujah,” McCain said on the Senate floor Thursday. “What was their sacrifice for?

“What do we tell these families? ... We have to tell them their sacrifice was squandered by an administration that wanted out.”

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McCain said the administration should have known better.

“The Obama administration should have recognized that after years of brutal conflict Iraqi leaders lacked public trust,” McCain said. “The administration must recognize its failed policies and change course.”

Graham criticized Obama for blaming Iraqi forces for losing gains the United States helped make. The Iraqi government asked the United States to remove its troops as part of a drawdown agreement.

“If you believed Iraq was the wrong war to fight and we shouldn’t have been there, then own your decision — don’t blame the Iraqis,” Graham said.

McCain said Obama’s choice to disengage troops in Iraq has jeopardized the entire region, especially in Syria, where President Bashar Assad has killed thousands of his own people for an uprising against his regime.

McCain said Iran has been able to use Iraqi airspace to transport assistance to Assad, which he said wouldn’t have happened if U.S. troops were still in Iraq.

“This president and this administration has stood back while over 130,000 people have been killed and more than half of the population has been displaced,” McCain said of Syria.

McCain and Graham said any time al Qaeda gains strength in a region it threatens the United States’s security, and that Iraq and Syria are now at risk of becoming “a base for al Qaeda.”

McCain and Graham both supported former President George W. Bush’s troop surge and opposed Obama’s decision to pull all military presence from Iraq years later.

The Republican senators said they weren't advocating that U.S. troops return to Iraq, just that military guidance and assistance should be provided.