WASHINGTON — Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul is blaming his own party for the rise of the Islamic State group.
The freshman senator from Kentucky, who supports a smaller U.S. footprint in the world, charged Wednesday that the GOP's foreign policy hawks "created these people." In return, potential GOP rival Bobby Jindal, the Louisiana governor, said Paul is unqualified to be president.
The Islamic State group, commonly referred to as ISIS, has seized a strategically important swath of the Middle East and in recent days made gains in central Iraq.
"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 the Islamic State group. Paul's comments also underscore the challenge for former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, whose brother launched the invasion of Iraq more than a decade ago.
Jeb Bush faced pointed questions recently from a college student in Nevada who said former President George W. Bush "created ISIS."
The younger Bush does not blame his brother, but instead accuses the Obama administration of creating a void by withdrawing American forces, creating a vacuum in Iraq that was ultimately filled by the Islamic State group.
Jindal described Paul's comments as "a perfect example of why Senator Paul is unsuited to be commander in chief."
"We have men and women in the military who are in the field trying to fight ISIS right now, and Senator Paul is taking the weakest, most liberal Democrat position," Jindal said. "We should all be clear that evil and radical Islam are at fault for the rise of ISIS, and people like President Obama and Hillary Clinton exacerbate it."
In his interview earlier, Paul described Iraq as "a failed state" and criticized Republicans who condemn his foreign policy as weak.
"Everything that they have talked about in foreign policy, they have been wrong about for 20 years, and yet they have somehow the gall to keep saying and pointing fingers otherwise," Paul said.