Washington - Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul is blaming his own party for the rise of the Islamic State group.
The senator from Kentucky said on Wednesday that the Republicans' foreign policy hawks "created these people". That assertion led potential 2016 rival Bobby Jindal, Louisiana's governor, to say Paul was unqualified to be president.
The Islamic State group, commonly referred to as ISIS, has seized one-third of Iraq and Syria and in recent days made gains in central Iraq.
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"ISIS exists and grew stronger because of the hawks in our party who gave arms indiscriminately," Paul said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." He continued: "They created these people. ISIS is all over Libya because these same hawks in my party loved — they loved Hillary Clinton's war in Libya. They just wanted more of it."
Foreign policy has emerged as a central debate in the 2016 Republican presidential primary.
Many of Paul's Republican colleagues have offered aggressive rhetoric, but few specifics when asked about ISIS.
A failed state
Paul favors less military intervention abroad, wants a dramatic reduction in US money to foreign governments and stands in opposition to the Patriot Act and the US policy behind drone strikes. It all makes him something of an outlier on foreign policy and national security in the Republican field.
He stood apart from many in his party in opposing US military action in Syria before the ascension of the Islamic State.
Sensitive to being branded an isolationist in the race, he has scaled back some of his positions, no longer calling for deep cuts in the Pentagon budget, for example, and no longer proposing the elimination of foreign aid, including to Israel.
On the Islamic State, he wants coalitions of Arab troops — instead of US troops — to take the lead on the ground.
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Paul's comments also underscore the challenge for former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, whose brother launched the invasion of Iraq more than a decade ago.
Jeb Bush said Wednesday that US military leadership is key to stabilising Iraq, although with American advisers and intelligence, not combat forces.
"Most particularly the United States needs to regain its position militarily in Iraq to bring some order to the Iraqi military," he told Republicans during a call to Republican activists in Alabama.
In addition, the US must also lead an international coalition to create support within Iraq to rid it of ISIS for the long term, Bush said. "You have to do this militarily and build on that with a political solution," he said.
In his interview earlier, Paul described Iraq as "a failed state" and criticised Republicans who condemn his foreign policy as weak.