Senators frustrated after closed-door Iraq briefing

 

Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday criticized the Obama administration as lacking a clear strategy for defeating the Sunni insurgency that is roiling Iraq.

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Two of the leading critics of the Obama administration's Iraq policy, Sens. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainRubio asks Army to kick out West Point grad with pro-communist posts The VA's woes cannot be pinned on any singular administration Overnight Defense: Mattis offers support for Iran deal | McCain blocks nominees over Afghanistan strategy | Trump, Tillerson spilt raises new questions about N. Korea policy MORE (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamDurbin: I had 'nothing to do' with Curbelo snub Republicans jockey for position on immigration Overnight Health Care: House passes 20-week abortion ban | GOP gives ground over ObamaCare fix | Price exit sets off speculation over replacement MORE (R-N.C.), emerged from a closed-door briefing dissatisfied with what they heard from Defense Secretary Chuck HagelCharles (Chuck) Timothy HagelThe Hill's 12:30 Report The Hill's 12:30 Report Billionaires stopping climate change action have a hold on Trump, GOP MORE and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey.

“They have no strategy, nor could they articulate a strategy to counter what our intelligence estimates say will be a direct threat to the United States,” McCain told reporters.

President Obama has sent nearly 800 troops to Iraq over the last several weeks to help advise Iraqi government forces that are being overwhelmed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a Sunni extremist group that has taken over huge chunks of the country and controls most of the border with Syria.

Last week Dempsey said the Baghdad’s forces “probably” couldn’t recapture the lost ground by themselves, leaving the door open to further American involvement.

Graham is urging airstrikes to counter ISIS and said the administration should launch a bombing campaign in Syria to see if it affects the situation in Iraq.

“No one gave us a scenario where the safe haven they enjoy ... could be eradicated without some American force,” Graham said.

“Name a force that could dislodge these people and deny them their safe haven in the region that doesn’t include American airpower.”

Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinOvernight Energy: EPA aims to work more closely with industry Overnight Finance: Lawmakers grill Equifax chief over hack | Wells Fargo CEO defends bank's progress | Trump jokes Puerto Rico threw budget 'out of whack' | Mortgage tax fight tests industry clout Lawmakers try again on miners’ pension bill MORE (D-W.Va.) said the U.S. must “clarify what our policy is in that part of the world, the Middle East, North Africa, and also what our mission is at this time.”

“After 12 and a half years, there’s still a lot of questions,” he said.

Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillKoch-backed group targets red-state Dems on tax reform Overnight Cybersecurity: Equifax security employee left after breach | Lawmakers float bill to reform warrantless surveillance | Intel leaders keeping collusion probe open Las Vegas highlights Islamist terrorism is not America's greatest domestic threat MORE (D-Mo.) said she thinks the White House has strategies to contain ISIS.

However, “if the American people are looking for a simple sound bite, it would be irresponsible to give one, because it’s complicated.”

She cited Iran’s military involvement in both Iraq and Syria, and Baghdad’s inability to come up with a new, more inclusive government as serious impediments to solving the deteriorating security situation.

The administration is being “appropriately cautious and careful because there is not a one-size-fits-all solution in the Middle East right now,” McCaskill said.