AL QAEDA ON RISE? ‘Chaos’ as major Iraqi city falls to militants

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A major outbreak of violence and unrest in northern Iraq — where Al Qaeda-aligned insurgents effectively toppled the country’s second-largest city — is fueling concerns in Washington that security is rapidly deteriorating, a little more than two years after U.S. troops left the country.

The city of Mosul fell to Al Qaeda-affiliated militants on Tuesday. The White House and State Department condemned the five-day escalation of violence in the oil-rich region “in the strongest possible terms.”

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the bloodshed “has led to a serious deterioration of the security situation in that city.”

“The situation is extremely serious, and U.S. officials in both Washington and Baghdad are tracking events closely in coordination with the government of Iraq,” Earnest said.

The tone at the State Department shifted considerably from a day earlier, when spokeswoman Marie Harf downplayed the situation. “I don’t get the sense that they’re gaining a lot of territory,” Harf said Monday at a press briefing.

On Tuesday, spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the violence showed how fragile the security in Iraq had become. She said the U.S. is “deeply concerned” about the unrest in Mosul, blaming the situation in part on the Al Qaeda-tied Islamic State of Iraq gaining strength from the civil war in Syria.

The deterioration in Mosul sent up red flags about the lack of sustained stability in a country where the U.S. has spent more than $1.7 trillion over eight years.

Republican Sen. John McCain said the takeover of Mosul was a reflection of President Obama’s failure to leave a U.S. force in Iraq to help assure stability. He said the latest surge in sectarian violence, along with the stunning collapse of security forces in Mosul, may be a warning sign of what’s to come when American troops pull out of Afghanistan later this year.

“There’s no doubt that we could have left troops behind, as we have in Korea and Germany and Bosnia, and didn’t, and so it is now chaos, and so you will see greater and greater attacks and … chaos in Iraq,” McCain told reporters, according to Reuters.

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