Week ahead: US back in Iraq

The White House and Congress will keep a close watch on the deteriorating security situation in Iraq this week as U.S. military advisers work to turn back a Sunni insurgency.

Defense Department press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby on Friday said some of the 300 military advisers President Obama authorized to help Iraqi forces are already in the country.

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He added that more of the “special operators” would come from the surrounding region in the days ahead.

The situation in the Middle East remains fluid as the U.S. and its allies struggle to come up with concrete ways to help Baghdad combat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, an al-Qaeda inspired extremist group that has seized large areas of the country.

Secretary of State John Kerry is traveling abroad this week to coordinate an international response to the crisis. He will make stops in Amman, Jordan; Brussels and Paris, according to the State Department.

Lawmakers in both parties have offered support for President Obama’s move but have held off on backing air or drone attacks. Obama has said he does not anticipate asking Congress for authority to launch strikes soon.

On Wednesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee will hear about the administration’s timeline to have all U.S. combat troops out of Afghanistan by the close of 2016. Ambassador James Dobbins, the State Department’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, is set to testify.

GOP lawmakers critical of the plans are likely to cite the chaos in Iraq to argue for the U.S. to maintain a presence beyond 2016.

A Wednesday classified briefing for the Senate Armed Services Strategic Forces subcommittee is the only action the influential panel has booked for this week. The subcommittee will hold a closed-door briefing with experts on U.S. nuclear deterrence policy.

That same day, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will convene to hear testimony about the future of U.S.-China relations.

On Monday, the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee meets at 7:30 p.m. to discuss the Veterans Affairs Department’s ability to care for its patients.

The House and Senate this week appointed 28 conferees to hammer out compromise legislation designed to overhaul the agency’s scandal-ridden healthcare system. Lawmakers hope to report out a final bill before the Fourth of July recess.

Off Capitol Hill, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on Tuesday will host Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S. to talk about his country’s relations with India. Islamabad’s recent offensive against terrorist groups is likely to come up.

That same day, the conservative American Enterprise Institute will hold a conversation with outgoing Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos.

The Brookings Institution on Tuesday will convene a half-day seminar on U.S.-China relations and then follow that up with another event on Wednesday focused on Beijing’s relationship with its neighbors.

 

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