President Obama’s spokesman struggled a bit when asked to identify foreign-policy achievements that former secretary of state Hillary Clinton played a role in accomplishing, first panning the question as a “pop quiz” and then settling on an answer that highlights work in Iraq, even as an al-Qaeda splinter group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, has invaded the country’s second largest city.
“It feels a little like a pop quiz, but I’ve got a couple ideas,” White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest said when asked to name the accomplishments, before saying that Obama and Clinton succeeded in “ending the war in Iraq [and] responsibly winding down the war in Afghanistan.” He also cited ”the success of our efforts to dismantle and destroy al-Qaeda core.”
The Iraq answer is a bit awkward for Earnest, though, as extremists have taken control of Mosul, the country’s second city. “The whole of Mosul collapsed today. We’ve fled our homes and neighborhoods, and we’re looking for God’s mercy,” said Mahmoud Al Taie, a dentist, according to the Wall Street Journal. “We are waiting to die.”
Obama failed to secure a status-of-forces agreement with the Iraqi government that would have kept U.S. troops in the country to provide security, but the State Department maintains that “our assistance enables Iraq to combat [ISIS] on the front lines, where hundreds of Iraqi security-force personnel have been killed and injured in that fight this year,” as spokeswoman Jen Psaki put it in a statement Tuesday.
“We are concerned about how the security situation in Mosul has deteriorated so precipitously,” Earnest conceded, moments after touting Iraq.