Royce: Step up arms supply to Kurds

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) is pressing the Obama administration to move more aggressively to arm Kurdish Peshmerga forces fighting a Sunni extremist group in Iraq.

“I still haven't seen the decisive actions necessary to get the Kurds the armaments they need to fight back, nor have I really seen the attempts to bring together the regional players,” Royce said Friday on Fox News’s “America’s Newsroom.”

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Kurdish fighters are fighting to repel forces from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria known as ISIS or ISIL, which has captured parts of northern Iraq and has threatened the Kurdish capital of Erbil.

Royce said that with embattled Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki stepping down, Baghdad has a better chance of forming a unity government and pushing back ISIS.

“Now if we move decisively to arm the Kurdish forces and now that Maliki is stepping aside and we have a new probably more inclusive government in Iraq, we have a better ability here to stem ISIS,” said Royce. “So things are beginning to unfold here in a way in which we may be able to check their advance.

“All of this could have been done, you know, a year ago,” he added.

The Republican lawmaker said providing military support and weaponry to the Kurds, who occupy parts of northern Iraq along the borders with Turkey, Syria and Iran, should be a “no-brainer.” ISIS has gained control of a number of cities in that region since the beginning of the year.

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, echoed Royce’s calls on MSNBC’s “The Daily Rundown” Friday.

“The United States needs to show more support for the Kurds. These are some real fighters who are willing to take ISIL on as the terrorist threat that they are,” she said. “We need to get more involved with getting the Kurds to build up their army and fight [ISIS].” 

Recent reports claimed that the Kurdish regional government had yet to hear back from the Pentagon after making a request for arms last week.

On Thursday, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby said the Defense Department is still reviewing those requests, but added that the U.S. has already been helping the Kurds through supplies provided to Iraqi security forces.

"They have requested some material assistance, and we're taking a look at that," he said. “So we're not blind to the requirement, to the demand for equipment, and what I can tell you is the interagency is focused on this.”

In addition to airstrikes targeting ISIS, President Obama also said in a statement Thursday that the U.S. has “increased the delivery of military assistance to Iraqi and Kurdish forces fighting [ISIS] on the front lines.” 

Both Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry said Wednesday that the U.S. is already helping the Kurds through U.S. assistance provided to Iraq’s security forces in Baghdad.

Great Britain and France also signaled this week that they will provide arms directly to the Kurds. 

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