Boehner: Obama must 'engage' on Iraq

Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerCheney battle raises questions about House GOP's future Lott says lobbying firm cut ties to prevent him from taking clients Lobbying firm cuts ties to Trent Lott amid national anti-racism protests MORE (R-Ohio) on Thursday sharply criticized President Obama over the resurgence of al Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq and said the president must send equipment and other aid — but not U.S. troops — back to the country. 

Hours later, the White House offered a sharp response, with press secretary Jay Carney saying Boehner's criticism was an "inaccurate representation" of Obama's policies. 

The al Qaeda affiliate, known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), has taken control of Fallujah and other key areas in Iraq, creating the most serious security crisis for the Iraqi government since the last U.S. troops withdrew in December 2011.

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Boehner brought up the issue unprompted at his weekly Capitol press conference, saying that progress made by the U.S. in its nine-year war in Iraq had been threatened across the country and “reversed” in Fallujah.

“A status of forces agreement with Iraq should have been agreed to, and this administration failed to deliver,” Boehner said, referring to an accord that would have maintained a residual U.S. force to help the Iraqi government.

The Speaker criticized Obama for delegating the Iraq portfolio to Vice President Biden and called on him to “take a more active role in dealing with the issues in Iraq.”

“The United States has and will continue to have vital national interests in Iraq,” Boehner said. “We must maintain a long-term commitment to a successful outcome there, and it’s time that president recognize this and get engaged.”

Asked to elaborate, Boehner said the U.S. should send equipment “and other services” to Iraq but not put U.S. troops on the ground there.

“There are things that we can do to help the Iraqis that do not involve putting U.S. troops on the ground,” he said. “I don’t think that is called for at this point in time."

Carney the administration was "deeply engaged" in consultations with the Iraqi government, and argued Boehner sounded like he wanted to send U.S. troops back to Iraq.

“I know that Speaker Boehner opposed candidate Obama's promise to end the war in Iraq. I know that. Maybe he still does,” Carney said. “Maybe he thinks that American men and women in uniform ought to be fighting today in Anbar province. That's a disagreement that may continue to exist.”

Carney added that Obama had "fulfilled his commitment" to end the war in Iraq. 

“Maybe [Speaker Boehner] ought to be more clear about what he envisions ought to happen. And if he means that we should have troops there, he ought to say so,” Carney said. “The president would disagree with that.”

The National Security Council on Thursday pushed back against Boehner's suggestion that a residual U.S. force would have prevented the violence that has erupted in Iraq.

“There was violent sectarian conflict in Iraq when there were 150,000 U.S. troops on the ground there. So the idea broached by some members of Congress that this would not be happening if there were 10,000 U.S. troops in Iraq today begs scrutiny," NSC spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said in a written response. "This administration is committed to partnering with the government of Iraq to build its capacity to fight terrorism, but the solution must be an Iraqi-led solution."

Meehan listed a number of military equipment deliveries that has been made to Iraq and are in the works.

"While the United States continues to provide military equipment to Iraq to help meet its security needs," she said, "we also continue to advise and assist Iraq in developing strategies with the understanding that security operations only work in the long-term if fused with political initiatives and outreach to all of Iraq’s political leaders and communities to address the complex challenges that remain in Iraq beyond the security realm."

The White House said it is accelerating its military aid to the Iraqis, including an additional shipment of Hellfire missiles and 10 additional surveillance drones. Biden has also spoken several times with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki over the past week.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also weighed in on Boeher's comments, writing in a Twitter message that it "takes a lot of gall for Speaker Boehner to criticize President Obama for an Iraq drawdown negotiated by President Bush."

— Justin Sink and Jeremy Herb contributed. 

— This story was posted at 12:30 and was updated at 2:39 p.m.