Most Republican presidential contenders say President Barack Obama's quick withdrawal from Iraq led to the emergence of the Islamic State group, but Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., says it is actually the fault of war hawks in his own party.
On MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Wednesday, host Joe Scarborough asked Paul if he was concerned that a potential rival for the Republican nomination, such as Sen. Lindsey Graham, would blame Paul's non-interventionist tendencies for the growth of the Islamic State group (also known as ISIS).
"I would say it's exactly the opposite," said Paul, a 2016 presidential candidate. "ISIS exists and grew stronger because of the hawks in our party who gave arms indiscriminately, and most of those arms were snatched up by ISIS."
Since at least 2012, the U.S. has been covertly arming so-called moderate Syrian rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Vetting these rebels is a difficult process, and they often defect to groups such as ISIS, bringing U.S.-provided weapons with them. ISIS has also been able to seize large quantities of American weapons from fleeing members of the Iraqi army, which began receiving U.S. support following the 2003 invasion.
How exactly ISIS came to power so quickly is still hotly debated. Many likely 2016 presidential contenders argue that Obama's speedy withdrawal from Iraq created a power vacuum that allowed ISIS to rise and commandeer vast swaths of land.
Recently disclosed Defense Intelligence Agency documents seem to lend more credibility to Paul's theory. The documents, previously classified as secret, predicted that Western intervention in the Syrian civil war could serve as a catalyst for the emergence of an Islamic State.
"These hawks also wanted to bomb Assad which would have made ISIS's job even easier. They created these people," Paul said.
"ISIS is all over Libya because the same hawks in my party loved Hillary Clinton's war in Libya, they just wanted more of it," he continued. "But Libya is a failed state and a disaster, Iraq really is a failed state or a vassal state now of Iran, so everything they've talked about in foreign policy they've been wrong about for 20 years and yet they somehow have the gall to keeping saying and pointing figures otherwise."