Lieberman slams Obama on terrorism

Retired Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) was back on Capitol Hill on Wednesday to slam the Obama administration's response to terrorism.

The hawkish former chairman of the Senate Homeland Committee testified that taking military action off the table when dealing with Islamist militants has been a mistake.

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“Put very bluntly,” Lieberman said, “I do not see a credible or coherent U.S. strategy right now for exactly those countries — Syria, Iraq and Libya — that most threaten to emerge as al Qaeda’s newest and most dangerous footholds — places, from which terrorist attacks against our homeland can and will originate.”

Lieberman said the administration and Congress should do more to “aggressively and creatively” arm moderate rebels in Syria; support Iraq's government with U.S. air power and a “small number of embedded advisors on the ground;” and put in place a “large-scale, well-resourced, U.S.-led effort to build up new Libyan army and security forces as quickly as possible.”

The former senator and Democratic vice presidential candidate was speaking before a House Homeland Committee hearing on the administration's alleged “false narrative” on terrorism.

Republicans have redoubled their criticism of the administration's national security policies ahead of the 2014 and 2016 elections. They argue recent developments across the Middle East — the 2012 attack against the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, al Qaeda's gains in Iraq, the ongoing civil war in Syria — point to a lack of strategy.

“Today, the president’s rhetoric on the threat of al Qaeda and its franchises are in stark contrast to the reality we are witnessing in the Middle East and Northern Africa,” panel chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said in his opening remarks. “Whether or not the downplaying of the spread of these Islamist extremist groups and the real threat they pose, which are metastasizing from the civil war in Syria, is to further a political agenda or to simply to avoid the conflict altogether, I believe this false narrative greatly endangers our national security.”

Former Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) defended the administration but said it needs to better explain its agenda.

“The problem with the U.S. narrative is not that we are underplaying the terror threat,” she said. “We are inadequately explaining our agenda to people in the U.S. — and in the region. If we leave a vacuum, the bad guys fill it with their narrative.”

The top Democrat on the panel, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), questioned the point of a hearing that didn't include any administration officials.

“It appears that this hearing begins with the assumption that to maintain safety and security within its borders, this nation must use its military to address every threat outside of its shores,” he said. “Given such a perspective, the United States would be in a position of constantly engaging in military action abroad.”

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