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Kelly Ayotte calls for increased airstrikes against ISIS

  • U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., meets with area business leaders at Saint Anselm College before giving a speech at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics Monday, July 11, 2016, in Manchester, N.H. Ayotte is seeking re-election for a second term. (AP Photo/Jim Cole) Jim Cole

  • Republican U.S. Sen Kelly Ayotte meets with area business leaders at Saint Anselm College before giving a speech on Monday. Jim Cole/ Ap

  • U.S. Sen Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., speaks to area business leaders at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College, Monday, July 11, 2016, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole) Jim Cole

  • U.S. Sen Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. speaks to area business leaders at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College Monday, July 11, 2016, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole) Jim Cole

  • U.S. Sen Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. speaks to area business leaders at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College Monday, July 11, 2016, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole) Jim Cole

  • U.S. Sen Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H. speaks to area business leaders at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College, Monday, July 11, 2016, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Jim Cole) Jim Cole



Monitor staff
Tuesday, July 12, 2016

U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte pledged in a national security speech Monday to fully fund the military and called on the Obama administration to increase airstrikes and raids against the Islamic State.

“Without security, we cannot have freedom,” said Ayotte, a Republican and New Hampshire’s junior senator.

Ayotte has sought to make national security a key issue in her re-election bid against Democratic Gov. Maggie Hassan. The Republican serves on Senate committees on armed services and homeland security. Since taking office nearly six years ago, Ayotte has positioned herself as a hawk on foreign policy, often aligning with Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham.

In the speech at Saint Anselm College, Ayotte criticized the Obama administration for not acting quickly on ISIS and called the president’s strategy “belated and incremental.” Ayotte panned Obama’s decision in 2011 to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq, which she said helped destabilize the region.

The Republican laid out a strategy that would require the U.S. to undertake a “more aggressive” air campaign and run more special operations raids targeting ISIS leaders.

Ayotte advocated the government adopt a “detention and interrogation policy” for captured ISIS fighters, though she did not name any specifics about what that could include.

“We’re capturing people, and we don’t have a policy of where we’re going to detain them,” she said. “We’re not interrogating them long enough to figure out what they know.”

Ayotte called for increasing pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to leave and replace his regime with one “inclusive of Sunnis.” And she said the U.S. should get “tougher on Russia,” a country that she said has undermined U.S. efforts in Syria and has continued bombing civilians there.

Ayotte made no mention of Donald Trump, the likely GOP presidential nominee who Ayotte has said she will vote for come November. And she did not attack, or name, Hassan.

Hassan’s campaign said Ayotte’s support for Trump undermines her credibility on national security.

Hassan has similarly called for intensified airstrikes against ISIS and for increased pressure on Russia to reach a “political solution” in Syria.

While foreign policy was the focus of Ayotte’s speech, the Republican also called for the nation to “stand with our law enforcement community” in the wake of a shooting in Dallas that left five officers dead during a protest against recent fatal police shootings.

“We all appreciate how difficult a job it is for our first responders and our law enforcement community in New Hampshire and across this country,” Ayotte said. “This is a time for us all to stand together as a nation . . . to make sure these acts don’t continue to occur.”

Ayotte did not mention the two black men who were fatally shot by police in Louisiana and Minnesota last week, and whose deaths sparked protests nationwide, including those in Dallas.

Facing audience questions, Ayotte stood by her controversial stance to have the next president nominate the Supreme Court justice that will replace Antonin Scalia. A WMUR Granite State Poll released in April found a majority of New Hampshire voters believe the U.S. Senate should move forward with President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland.

Ayotte said she wants to hear from voters on the matter.

“I believe firmly that we should be waiting until November to see what the people weigh in, because this is going to change fundamentally the nature of the court going forward,” she said. “I want to hear what the people of New Hampshire have to say on that.”