WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — Sen. Rand Paul kicked off his 2016 presidential bid by calling out several factions of the Republican Party, including the “neocon” branch of the GOP that Paul says has a war-hawk mentality whose policies make the U.S. “less safe as a nation.”

Speaking with Fox News Wednesday, Paul addressed criticism from conservative Fox contributor Charles Krauthammer, saying that “neocons” in the Republican Party are “actually much closer to President Obama than I am.” The Kentucky Republican also detailed how America’s aggressive foreign policy stances often “backfire” and that Islamic State of Iraq and Syria militants are using “our American arms.”

“I like Charles… but you know what, sometimes he’s just wrong,” said Paul. “And what I would say the reason he’s wrong is that if you look at who’s closest to President Obama on foreign policy it would be the people who have supported his policies, like the war in Libya. I think the neocons, both in our party, have been very close to President Obama on all of these issues.”

Paul continued, “The only place that they have differed is in degrees. I’ve been the one who opposed the war in Libya. I was the one opposed to Obama bombing Assad — [in] the beginning of the Syrian conflict began. I was the one opposed to Obama’s arming of the Syrian rebels, of the Islamic rebels. See, the neocons have been in favor of all of these things, and they’re actually much closer to President Obama than I am” he stated, although he declined to name the specific neocons.

Asked how Krauthammer and others possibly labeled “neocons” could be defined, Paul declined to identify people by name, and said he’s not choosing to pick a fight with people in his own party.

“It’s more of a philosophy, and they will know who they are,” said Paul. “I don’t want to bring up names. And there’s a philosophy of neo-conservativism and I think that we’re wrong in Libya and we’re less safe as a nation.”

“I didn’t start this; it’s not my choice to start out by having a war with Republicans,” continued Paul.

“But I will tell you, for example in polling in Iowa about two months ago they asked the question, ‘Do you favor Rand Paul’s foreign policy of being less involved, or do you favor John McCain’s policy of being more involved and intervening more in war around the world,’ and it’s actually pretty evenly split. About half of Republicans think, ‘Yep, John McCain’s always right and we should have troops in 15 countries and be at war continuously,’ but about half the party says, ‘You know what, Rand Paul has a point. sometimes we get involved and it actually backfires on us.’ I think Libya’s an example of that, and I think had we toppled Assad, ISIS would have been stronger, and I think our arming of the Islamic rebels in that civil war has allowed ISIS to get stronger.”

Paul said that U.S. decisions to arm rebels in Syria and other parts of the Middle East have caused us to actually arm ISIS.

“In 2013 we put 600 tons of weapons in there…our American arms went very quickly to ISIS, the Saudi Arabian arms went to ISIS. ISIS is strong today because they’re fighting with Western arms, and I think it’s a terrible tragedy.”

Paul called on Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and several other Arab nations to lead the charge against radical Islam in the Middle East.

Asked about being more aggressive on “radical Islam” and using “boots on the ground” strategies, Paul said “they need to be Arab boots on the ground. Ultimately, civilized Islam is going to rise up and be part of this.”

Paul’s stance against GOP neocons comes as The Foundation for a Secure & Prosperous America, a group led by veteran Republican strategist Rick Reed, will begin running ads in four key early voting states labeling his foreign policy stance as “dangerous.”

Benjamin Fearnow

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