Obama shouldn’t ‘take options off the table’ against ISIS, says lawmaker

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) on Friday skewered President’s Obama’s efforts thus far to battle the militant group the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

“The first thing we should do is quit talking about what we're not going to do. When the president takes options off the table, that only simplifies the planning of ISIS,” he told CNN, referring to the administration’s repeated vow not to send U.S. ground troops back into Iraq. 

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Instead, the U.S. must reassure Iraq that “we’re in it for the long haul," according to Thornberry, who is widely expected to chair the House Armed Services Committee next year.

The Iraqis “are going to have to do this on the ground. We can assist them from the air of course, but they're looking — they know that we left a couple years ago,” he said. “They don't know whether they should stick their neck out and trust us again.”

He added that the tactical airstrikes the president authorized on Aug. 7 "don't really change the momentum."

The Texas lawmaker also said the U.S. should not divulge any details or information, about missions undertaken to “rescue people or to push back against ISIS."

The White House’s disclosure this week that it had attempted to rescue journalist James Foley and other Americans held hostage by the terrorist group earlier this year has drawn sharp criticism from Republicans, who questioned the announcement’s timing and how the media learned of the failed operation.

The revelation came one day after ISIS posted a video online showing Foley’s execution. On Friday deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said Foley’s death was “absolutely” a terrorist attack, and administration officials hinted the air campaign could move into neighboring Syria. 

Thornberry described the execution as an “attempt to intimidate us into not playing a role in pushing back against ISIS into trying to keep us out of Iraq and from joining a coalition to contain and stop them.” 

He also repeated concerns that some fighters with ISIS have western passports, which would allow them to enter the United States easily. 

“I don't know the exact number, 2,000 to 3,000, say, have western passports,” according to Thornberry. “It only takes a handful, as we saw on 9/11, to do enormous damage.”