By Rebecca Shabad - 06/17/14 07:24 AM EDT
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) warned Tuesday that “thousands of people with Western passports" are joining the al Qaeda offshoot gaining ground in Iraq and Syria.
On CNN’s “New Day,” Rogers said there are Westerners "on the ground, getting further radicalized, trained, who will go back home,” mentioning that a U.S. citizen carried out a suicide bombing in Syria last month.
Asked if militants would be easy to track if they returned to the United States, Rogers said, “No, not necessarily. We have some understanding of who they are. We don’t have a complete understanding of who they are.”
The Intelligence Committee chairman said he has spoken with members of the White House national security team, but declined to confirm whether the U.S. might move forward with launching air strikes against the Sunni insurgency taking over parts of Iraq.
“I don’t really want to say that. Some options are being discussed that will provide for some disruption,” Rogers said, “which may include airstrikes to break momentum.”
Rogers backed U.S. air strikes and defended President Obama’s initial move to send in 275 troops to protect the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, arguing that it’s not a “big footprint.”
“It needs to be robust enough to help the Iraqis move forward,” he said, but “not a big target footprint we want to put on the ground.”
Rogers said he advises the Obama administration to “very aggressively re-engage the Arab League,” but that the U.S. shouldn’t negotiate with the Iranian government on Iraq because its members have “blood on their hands.”
On Monday evening, a senior State Department official confirmed that the U.S. and Iran did discuss the situation in Iraq on the sidelines of nuclear negotiations.