Published December 20, 2015
Congressional Democrats were critical Sunday of President Obama’s efforts to stop Islamic militants in the Middle East, suggesting the “mission has been lost” and that U.S. troops might be needed in Iraq.
The criticism follows Islamic State’s unexpected rise in Syria and deadly run across Iraq, which has been met by a U.S. humanitarian effort that includes air strikes on the militant group’s military operations.
Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., told “Fox News Sunday” that the United States might need ground troops to fight Islamic State, the militant group also known as ISIS, in Iraq and Syria.
“Ultimately, we may have some boots on the ground there,” said Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “That’s not something I want,” but we cannot “put our head in the sand.”
Engel has been one of the most outspoken Democrats on President Obama’s foreign policy. And his remarks Sunday appear contrary to those made by fellow party members and Americans, according to recent public-opinion polls.
However, fellow congressional Democrat Tulsi Gabbard said Sunday that the Obama administration’s overall mission to thwart Islamic State and other Islamic extremists in the Middle East “has been lost.”
The Hawaii lawmaker told ABC’s “This Week” that she is particularly critical of the administration saying the U.S. airstrikes on Islamic State in Iraq are part of larger humanitarian effort.
“We’re missing a critical question here,” said Gabbard, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, who said she joined the Army National Guard after the 9/11 terror attacks because U.S. leaders vowed to “take out Islamic extremists wherever they are.”
“That mission has been lost. [The administration] said the air strikes are not a campaign against ISIS. If our mission is not about taking out extremists, then we’ve got a real problem here,” she said.
Engel argued the U.S. should have armed the Free Syrian Army to help stamp out Islamic State when the group was emerging in the early stages of Syrian’s civil war.
Their remarks come as Congress is on August break and 10 days after Obama announced the airstrikes-humanitarian effort in Iraq.
Whether the House or Senate votes to reauthorize the use of force in Iraq remains to be seen, considering the political implications of saying yes or no seven weeks before the midterm elections.
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., told Fox News that Obama had already met with eight or nine members of the Armed Services and Foreign Relations committees to discuss a new authorization.
He called the effort a “good sign” and said Congress is “really tired of presidents just going in by themselves.”
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., chairman of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, told The Hill newspaper last week that Congress should have a full debate on whether to continue limited military action in Iraq.
On Sunday, Michigan GOP Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said the U.S. needs a “comprehensive plan to deal with Islamic State both in Syria, their safe haven, and Iraq.”
He also said Obama “does not play well with others” regarding such policy issues and that he doesn’t think the president legally needs a vote for reauthorization.
“But I think he should work with Congress,” Rogers said. “And he should step up that part of his game right now, given the world threats that we face today.”