By Rebecca Shabad - 06/16/14 11:01 AM EDT
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) said the United States could have attacked the Sunni militant group taking over parts of Iraq four months ago, and the Obama administration has now waited too long.
“I think we’ve been too reticent here, and we’ve waited too long because they’ve taken some major positions in the interim,” Royce said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”
“I just think we’ve lost an opportunity. About four months ago, this began to unfold. Right then, we had a target, we had the encampment, we should have hit it,” he added.
Early on, the U.S. could have taken out militants with drones, said Royce, who’s still in favor of launching air strikes.
Asked about the consequences of launching strikes that wind up taking civilians’ lives, Royce said, “And if you don’t hit [the terrorists], what are you going to do? Let them take another city.”
“We’ve taken our eye off the ball,” Royce said, given al Qaeda's revival in western Iraq.
The leader of the militant group, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), is Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who the U.S. believes is in Syria. In 2009, he was released from the U.S. detention camp at Camp Bucca.
Royce recalled how after his release, Baghdadi told his U.S. captors “I’ll see you in New York,” which Royce called a “rather aggressive statement.”
ISIS is the “richest terrorist network in the world,” Royce said.
“The failure to act over the last four months, and especially over the last 30 days,” Royce said, “is in and of itself a blunder.”