CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Republican congressional hopeful Gary Lambert says the U.S. should not redeploy troops to Iraq under any circumstances, while his two primary opponents in the 2nd District are more open to the possibility.
Lambert, a former state senator from Hudson, faces state Rep. Marilinda Garcia of Salem and former state Rep. Jim Lawrence of Nashua in the Sept. 9 primary. Along with Mike Little of Concord, they are competing for a chance to take on U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, a first-term Democrat.
Asked to assess the United States’ approach to the recent rise of Islamic State militants in Iraq, the three leading candidates agreed that President Barack Obama has failed to develop a clear strategy to end the turmoil. Garcia and Lawrence said airstrikes should continue, though Lawrence argued the U.S. waited too long to take that and other action.
“We should have sent arms and aid to the Kurdish forces the moment we decided to pull out,” he said.
All the candidates spoke before Tuesday’s news that journalist James Foley of New Hampshire had been killed by Islamic State militants.
Since their blitz offensive in June, an al-Qaida-breakaway group has overrun much of Iraq’s north and west and driven hundreds of thousands from their homes. The push has displaced members of the minority Christian and Yazidi religious communities and threatened Iraqi Kurds in the Kurdish autonomous region in the north.
Asked whether U.S. troops should be deployed to Iraq, Lambert answered, “Absolutely not.”
“No boots on the ground under any circumstances,” said Lambert, an active-duty colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve. “It is time for Iraq to govern itself and solve its own problems. We have spent far too much precious blood and treasure in that country already.”
Lawrence, an Air Force veteran, said that he wouldn’t favor deployment at this time and that the focus instead should be on forcing coalition members in the region to do more to secure the situation. Garcia said the U.S. must be involved in stabilizing Iraq and should continue to use airstrikes while cooperating with allies to engage the militants.
“Deploying U.S. troops back into this region is not a course of action anyone wants to take, but many U.S. military experts and advisers that have been attuned to this region warn that it may be necessary,” she said.
Garcia said Obama embarrassed himself and the United States in January when he spoke of the Islamic State, saying, “The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think is accurate, is if a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant.”
“The president should have acknowledged, far earlier than he did, that (the Islamic State) was a dangerous force that needed to be addressed instead of brushing it off with sarcasm,” she said.
All three candidates agreed that the U.S. should have foreseen the rise of the militants and faulted Obama for lack of leadership.
“Do not draw meaningless lines in the sand,” Lawrence said. “Do not broadcast your next move to your enemy complete with a calendar for withdrawal. Arm your friends in the region. Maintain a strong defense posture that prevents issues rather than doing cleanup later.”
Lambert said Obama has failed to clearly define U.S. national security interests or protect American interests abroad.