WASHINGTON - U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton called Thursday for the United States to “make it a top priority” to hunt down Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, much like it did when it killed al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden in a 2011 raid in Pakistan.
“Getting al-Baghdadi will require a focused effort driven at the highest levels,” Clinton told reporters in New York. “But I believe it will send a resounding message that nobody directs or inspires attacks against the United States and gets away with it.”
The former secretary of state scorned her opponent, Republican Donald Trump, for his performance late Wednesday at a nationally televised forum at which the two candidates separately answered questions about defense and national security issues.
Clinton said that Trump, a real estate mogul seeking his first elected office, "failed yet again" and showed he is “temperamentally unfit” to be the U.S. commander-in-chief, a point she underscored in a separate tweet.
Donald Trump has proven over and over again that he%27s unfit to be our Commander-in-Chief. https://t.co/uLoHJdzXte— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) September 7, 2016
He “trash-talked American generals,” Clinton said, and called his claim that Russian President Vladimir Putin is more of a leader than U.S. President Barack Obama “astonishing” and “unpatriotic and insulting to the people of our country.”
“It is scary,” she said, “because it suggests he will let Putin do whatever Putin wants to do, and then make excuses for him.”
'Reduced to rubble'
Trump said at the forum that U.S. military generals had been “reduced to rubble” under Obama “to a point where it’s embarrassing to our country” and suggested that he might fire some of them.
As a major party candidate, Trump and Clinton have both received confidential intelligence briefings meant to ensure that the next leader is knowledgeable about key foreign policy issues when their term begins. When asked if he was shocked by anything he heard, Trump said Obama, Clinton and Secretary of State John Kerry did the opposite of what intelligence experts told them.
"I am very good with body language,” Trump said. “I could tell, they were not happy our leaders did not follow what they were recommending.”
Clinton rebuked Trump’s assessment about his briefing, saying, “I think what he said was totally inappropriate and undisciplined. I would never comment on any aspect of an intelligence briefing that I received.”
Trump, in a comment on his Twitter account, bragged about his performance at the forum, saying, “The reviews and polls from almost everyone of my commander-in-chief presentation were great. Nice!”
Thank you to our fantastic veterans. The reviews and polls from almost everyone of my Commander-in-Chief presentation were great. Nice!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 8, 2016
Clinton, seeking to become the first female U.S. president, said she is convening a group of former top national security officials who have served under both Democratic and Republican presidents to map strategy on how to defeat Islamic State jihadists.
Trump has also made destruction of Islamic State a key plank of his foreign policy strategy, saying he would get military generals to present him with a plan within 30 days of taking office.
Trump and Clinton, now just two months from the November 8 election to replace Obama when he leaves office in January, are set to square off in their first debate September 26, with two others scheduled in October.
Clinton is leading Trump by about 3 percentage points in national polls, less than half her advantage a month ago. Her standing with voters has continued to be clouded by ongoing questions about her use of an unsecured private email server while she was the country’s top diplomat from 2009 to 2013.
U.S. investigators concluded that her handling of classified material was “extremely careless” but that no criminal charges were warranted.