- Associated Press - Monday, July 11, 2016

MANCHESTER, N.H. (AP) - Seeking to keep national security a focus of her re-election bid, Republican U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte criticized President Barack Obama on Monday for a “belated and incremental” approach to defeating the Islamic State group.

“It has taken much too much time to implement a sufficiently serious, urgent and effective strategy,” Ayotte said at Saint Anselm College’s ‘Politics & Eggs’ political lecture series.

Ayotte is facing Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan in one of the country’s most competitive U.S. Senate races. Ayotte avoided mention of Hassan in her remarks, but criticized Obama’s response to the Islamic State group and to foreign policy in the Middle East in general.

Polling from the University of New Hampshire Survey Center shows less than half of residents in the state approve of Obama’s handling of foreign policy.

Ayotte called for more special operations raids and air strikes against the Islamic State group and a better policy for holding and interrogating captured terrorists. She spoke in favor of more forceful dealings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar Assad. Hassan also supports more air strikes and special operations forces and stronger support for the Kurds.

Ayotte has spoken out against Obama’s plans to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, and she said the administration lacks a clear detention and interrogation policy. Hassan said in June that she does not support closing Guantanamo Bay.

Hassan’s campaign, meanwhile, is tying Ayotte to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump on national security. They say Ayotte’s support for Trump undermines her credibility because he advocates for a dangerous foreign policy.

To open her speech, Ayotte offered condolences for the families of the police officers killed in Dallas last week during a protest against fatal police shootings. She did not mention the deaths of two black men at the hands of police officers that led to the protests, but said in an interview later Monday that both need to be “fully investigated.”

Ayotte, a former New Hampshire attorney general, said “99.9 percent” of law enforcement officers are “nothing short of heroic.” She said it’s of “deep concern” if black Americans feel they’re not treated fairly.

“We need to be very conscious of that, and we need to address it,” she said. “I also think, though, we don’t do it in a way that detracts from law enforcement.”

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