By Alexander Bolton - 06/14/14 10:56 AM EDT
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) has called on President Obama to provide immediate assistance to Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is battling Sunni extremists threatening to topple his government.
McConnell warned the gains made by the United States and a coalition of partners to transition Iraq from a dictatorship to a democracy, at the cost of more than 4,000 American lives and trillions of dollars, risk evaporating.
He stopped short of calling for the redeployment of American ground troops.
Obama rejected Maliki’s pleas for airstrikes last month, according to The New York Times, but opened the door to some kind of intervention in remarks Friday.
“We will not be sending U.S. troops back into combat in iraq but I have asked my national security team to prepare a range of other options that could help support Iraq security forces and I’ll be reviewing those options in the days ahead,” he said.
McConnell blames the fast-unraveling security situation in Iraq on Obama’s decision to withdraw troops without leaving a residual force to keep the peace.
"The Iraqi security forces are now less capable than when the president withdrew the entirety of our force without successfully negotiating a remaining U.S. presence capable of preserving our gains and mentoring our partners," he said.
Democrats argue Obama had little choice but to withdraw completely because Maliki refused to sign a status of forces agreement to protect U.S. troops from prosecution.
Alison Lundergan Grimes, McConnell’s Democratic opponent, said Friday she firmly opposes sending combat forces back to Iraq.
"This is a very dangerous and concerning development in Iraq, and I will continue to monitor reports and evaluate new information as it develops in the coming days,” she said.
“Ultimately, this fight is up to the people of Iraq. I would not support the United States reintroducing troops in Iraq. The United States should continue to play a supportive role by providing useful intelligence," she added.