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Sen. John McCain, R-Az., lashed out at the Obama administration's anti-ISIS strategy on Tuesday, saying it was failing and risked leaving the next president with a "disaster."
McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, made the remarks to Defense Secretary Ash Carter in a hearing on ISIS, the terror group that is trying to establish an Islamic caliphate in Syria and Iraq and has inspired attacks elsewhere in the Middle East, Africa and the West.
"Our means and our current level of effort are not aligned with our ends," McCain said. "That suggests we are not winning, and when you are not winning in war, you are losing."
The hearing came a day after Obama spoke publicly about his anti-ISIS strategy. He spoke of the need to expand the campaign beyond airstrikes and the training of local fighters to include a "hearts and minds" campaign to counter the group's radicalized and violent ideology, which has enticed disillusioned young Muslims around the world and raised fears of "lone wolf" attacks in the United States.
Obama also said that despite the terror group's growing threat, it has actually lost ground on the battlefield in Iraq and Syria.
But McCain said the president's approach was inadequate, and he challenged Obama to find "a new direction."
"This needs to happen sooner rather than later, or the disaster the next president will inherit — in the Middle East, but also far beyond it — will be overwhelming," McCain said.
Carter argued that the administration's anti-ISIS strategy "is the right one," but "its execution can and will be strengthened, especially on the ground."
He acknowledged that the strategy has suffered from a law of local recruits to train in Iraq and Syria.
America has trained fewer than 15,000 fighters in the Iraqi Army and the Pershmerga, the Kurdish military, Carter said. In Syria, the U.S. is training about 60 opposition fighters, he said. "This number is much smaller than we hoped for at this point," he said.