By Rebecca Shabad - 01/07/14 07:21 AM EST
Vice President Biden affirmed in a phone call with Iraq’s prime minister Monday that the United States supports his government against terrorists in Iraq.
“The Vice President emphasized that the United States stands with Iraq in its fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. The Vice President expressed concern for those Iraqis who are suffering at the hands of terrorists and praised the recent security cooperation between Iraqi Security Forces and local and tribal forces in Anbar province,” the White House said in a statement late Monday.
The vice president also spoke with Iraqi Council of Representatives Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi. Biden “praised the recent cooperation between Iraqi Security Forces and Sunni local, tribal, and national leaders in the fight,” in Iraq’s Anbar province, the White House said.
A rebel group linked to al Qaeda last week took over the city of Fallujah, where American forces fought one of its bloodiest battles in 2004 during the Iraq war.
Republican Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) immediately criticized the Obama administration for withdrawing from Iraq too soon.
The White House hit back Monday, and defended its strategy. White House spokeswoman Jay Carney said the idea that a smaller amount of troops would have prevented sectarian violence “bears scrutiny.”
During his overseas trip Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. would be ready to help Iraq in its fight against these militant groups. He made clear, however, that the U.S. would not send any American troops into Iraq.