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Ben Carson calls on Congress to declare war on the Islamic State

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This story has been updated.

Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson called on Congress to “immediately issue a formal declaration of war” against the Islamic State in a statement Tuesday that broadly outlined his plan to eliminate the terrorist organization.

“Our country faces grave national security threats. We must act boldly and decisively to protect American citizens from terrorists at home and abroad,” Carson said in a statement. “We can no longer dawdle while ISIS continues to persecute Christians, enslave young girls, oppress civil societies and perpetrate terrorist attacks against the free world.”

The plan, announced on the same day as the fifth and final Republican primary debate of the year, is his campaign’s latest attempt to close the candidate’s credibility gap on foreign policy.

Carson has seen a sharp decline in national support since foreign policy took center stage in the GOP primary race following the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino. The campaign has faced increasingly harsh scrutiny over Carson’s grasp of national security issues, precipitating a fall from second place in national polls to third and fourth place. That criticism has been exacerbated by embarrassing blunders by Carson, including repeatedly mispronouncing Hamas — the name of the Palestinian terrorist organization — during a speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition two weeks ago. (Carson pronounced it like humus, the chickpea dip; he has since joked about his verbal mistakes on the campaign trail.)

Carson has notably struggled to respond to direct questions about foreign policy — including fundamental questions like whom he would enlist in the fight against the Islamic State. The retired neurosurgeon’s new plan rests heavily on working alongside Middle Eastern governments to recruit and train an allied regional military force. The U.S-led coalition, Carson said, would include Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

Pointing to the debate over the merits of allowing Syrian refugees to enter the United States, Carson said be believes the government should instead join the international community in creating a refugee safe zone in the al-Hasakah province in northeastern Syria, where those fleeing the Syrian civil war will be protected by international forces.

The candidate has acknowledged his foreign policy shortcomings, but he has pushed back by suggesting that no other Republican presidential candidates have extensive foreign policy experience, either. He has also compared the criticism he has faced to comments made about  Ronald Reagan before he became president.

“I could read you a whole bunch of quotes about Ronald Reagan that said, ‘He knows nothing about foreign policy. He will be an embarrassment to us.’ And he turned out to be one of the best there is,” Carson said at a town hall event in Ypsilanti, Mich., last week. “It’s because they never seem to learn that foreign policy, like everything else, has a lot more to do with common sense and wisdom than it does with being a professional politician.”

President Obama last week called on Congress to “authorize the continued use of military force against these terrorists.” That war authorization vote has gone nowhere in Congress — in part because many members say the war authorization Congress approved following the Sept. 11,2001, attacks gives the president all the authority he needs to continue operations against the Islamic State. Others worry that granting a new war authorization would expand the president’s war powers and could lead to U.S. involvement in open and sustained conflict in the Middle East.

According to his seven-point plan, Carson also called on Congress to restructure the visa program for visitors and immigrants, including limiting visitor visas to three months and requiring visitors to check in before requesting extensions. He also called on the State Department to investigate the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) “as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood and a supporter of terrorism.”

“We must destroy their caliphate and prevent their terrorists from infiltrating our homeland,” said Carson. “We must also secure our borders, identify radical Islamic extremism by name and root out its agents and collaborators in our own country.”

CAIR spokesperson Ibrahim Hooper fired back in a statement to the Post Tuesday afternoon.

“Ben Carson is a failing candidate grasping at straws and seeking payback for CAIR’s previous criticism of his anti-Muslim bigotry and his lack of commitment to uphold the Constitution,” fired back CAIR spokesperson responded Ibrahim Hooper. “He found that Islamophobia gave him a boost in the past, so he is trying it again.”

Carson and his campaign have sought to downplay the importance of Tuesday’s debate. Carson even said he welcomed questions on foreign policy in a video his team released on social media.

“I sure hope we’re getting a lot of questions about foreign affairs and national defense,” Carson said in a video posted on his Twitter feed Tuesday. “If so, slam dunk.”

 

This article was written by Jose A. DelReal from The Washington Post and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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