GOP rep.: US should aid Iraq with air power

The United States should assist the Iraqi government with limited air power and intelligence operations in its fight against al Qaeda, a Republican lawmaker and Iraq War veteran said Monday.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan in the Air Force, said in a statement Monday that the resurgence of violence in Iraq was a “direct result of the Obama administration’s short-sighted policy decisions and hurried withdrawal from the region.”

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In a follow-up response to The Hill, Kinzinger said he does not support sending any U.S. ground troops back to Iraq but does think the U.S. can play a role with air power and intelligence.

“While we cannot reintroduce ground soldiers in Iraq after leaving, I do support robust intelligence operations and, in some cases, limited air power in assisting the Iraqi government,” he said.

Kinzinger is the latest Republican to criticize the Obama administration’s handling of Iraq in the wake of al Qaeda-affiliated forces retaking Fallujah, the western Iraqi city where U.S. Marines took heavy casualties.

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said last week that the Obama administration shares in the blame for al Qaeda’s resurgence in Iraq because it withdrew all U.S. forces in 2011.

The Republican defense hawks have long been critical of the Obama administration’s decision to withdraw, which occurred after Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki refused to grant U.S. troops immunity from the country’s courts.

“When President Obama withdrew all U.S. forces from Iraq in 2011, over the objections of our military leaders and commanders on the ground, many of us predicted that the vacuum would be filled by America's enemies and would emerge as a threat to U.S. national security interests,” the senators said in a joint statement. “Sadly, that reality is now clearer than ever.”

Secretary of State John Kerry said that the U.S. would support the Iraqis in their fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), but would not send any troops.

“This is a fight that belongs to the Iraqis,” Kerry said in Jerusalem Sunday. 

“That is exactly what the President and the world decided some time ago when we left Iraq," he said. "So we are not, obviously, contemplating returning. We’re not contemplating putting boots on the ground. This is their fight, but we’re going to help them in their fight.”

Julian Pecquet contributed.