Bush insists Clinton’s policy mistakes led to rise of Islamic State
Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush stepped up his criticism of Hillary Clinton and her tenure as Secretary of State, arguing in a speech on foreign policy that the Democratic front-runner shares in the mistakes that he says led to the rise of the Islamic State.
The former Florida governor and the son and brother of two former presidents also called for a renewed sense of US leadership in the Middle East, which he says is needed to defeat the militant group and an ideology that is “to borrow a phrase, the focus of evil in the modern world”.
“The threat of global jihad, and of the Islamic State in particular, requires all the strength, unity and confidence that only American leadership can provide,” Bush said last night.
He was addressing some of the key issues in the 2016 presidential election, including national security and terrorism.
While Bush and Clinton were the biggest names going into the presidential race, they have been overshadowed by Donald Trump. The outspoken billionaire magnate and reality television star has emerged as a front-runner in a crowded Republican field, despite his fiery and controversial rhetoric.
Clinton remains the overwhelming favourite for the Democratic nomination.
In a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, Bush linked the rise of the militant Sunni group to the departure of US forces from Iraq in 2011. Islamic State occupies a large swathe of Iraq and Syria, and has a presence elsewhere in the Middle East.
“Isis grew while the United States disengaged from the Middle East and ignored the threat. And where was Secretary of State Clinton in all of this?” he said.
Clinton, he said, “stood by as that hard-won victory by American and allied forces was thrown away”.
“In all her record-setting travels, she stopped by Iraq exactly once.”
American troops left Iraq in December 2011, as required under a 2008 security agreement worked out by former president George W. Bush.
Both countries tried to negotiate plans to keep at least several thousand US forces in Iraq beyond the deadline to help keep a lid on simmering tensions among Islamic sects.
The Iraqi government refused to let US forces remain in their country with the legal immunity President Barack Obama’s administration insisted was necessary to protect them.
Obama, who campaigned for president on ending the war in Iraq, took the opportunity to remove US forces from the country.
“It was a case of blind haste to get out and to call the tragic consequences somebody else’s problem. Rushing away from danger can be every bit as unwise as rushing into danger, and the costs have been grievous,” said Bush.
Since last year, after the Islamic State gained a foothold in Iraq and Syria, Obama has ordered the deployment of about 3,500 American military trainers and advisers, who are helping Iraqi forces fight the Islamic State.
However, despite 6,000 air strikes flown by US and allied forces on Islamic State positions over the past year, American intelligence agencies recently concluded that the group remains a well-funded extremist army able to replenish its ranks with foreign fighters as quickly as the US-led coalition can eliminate them.
Meanwhile, the group has expanded to other countries, including Libya, Egypt and Afghanistan.
Bush has yet to say exactly what a US-led campaign against the Islamic State would look like if he is elected president.
That includes saying how many US troops he would potentially seek to return to Iraq, although he has said he supports allowing US military personnel to join Iraqi fighters in guiding air strikes, which they are barred from doing now.
Bush has said he supports a no-fly zone in Syria, but has not suggested US advisers or fighters deploying to Syria.