Republican Senators John McCain of Arizona (left) and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina (right) were among those blaming President Obama for the capture by al-Qaeda-affiliated forces of territory in Iraq formerly under the control of the Baghdad government, including the city of Fallujah, taken by U.S. forces in 2004 after one of the deadliest battles of the eight-year long Iraq War. Fallujah became a focal point in the war when insurgents killed four American security contractors and hung their burned bodies from a bridge. Rebel forces captured the city on Friday after a three-day battle and raised the black al-Qaeda flag over government buildings as a sign of victory, the Washington Post reported.
McCain and Graham blamed the latest turn of events on Obama's withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Iraq at the end of 2011, when the Status of Forces Agreement between the two countries expired. In a joint statement, the senators called the insurgents' triumphs "as tragic as they were predictable."
"While many Iraqis are responsible for this strategic disaster, the administration cannot escape its share of the blame," they said. When the president withdrew U.S. forces "over the objections of our military leaders and commanders on the ground," McCain and Graham said, "many of us predicted that the vacuum would be filled by America's enemies and would emerge as a threat to U.S. national security interests. Sadly, that reality is now clearer than ever."
The senators disputed the administration's version of the stalemate that led to the withdrawal at the end of the 2011, the expiration date in the Status of Forces Agreement negotiated between the Iraq government and the George W. Bush administration. The United States lobbied the Baghdad government for an extension of the agreement in 2011, but the Iraqis balked at a provision that exempted American personnel from prosecution and trial by the Iraqi government for crimes committed in their country. The United States was unwilling to drop that provision, and no agreement on authorization of an extension of U.S. troop presence was reached.
"The administration's narrative that Iraq's political leadership objected to U.S. forces remaining in Iraq after 2011 is patently false," charged McCain and Graham, both enthusiastic supporters of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion in a campaign dubbed Operation Iraqi Freedom. "We know firsthand that Iraq's main political blocs were supportive and that the administration rejected sound military advice and squandered the opportunity to conclude a security agreement with Iraq."
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