Iraq vet lawmaker: 'Too late' to retake Iraqi cities from ISIS

Iraq vet lawmaker: 'Too late' to retake Iraqi cities from ISIS
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Rep. Duncan HunterDuncan HunterDCCC reserves new ad buys in competitive districts, adds new members to 'Red to Blue' program Wife of former Rep. Duncan Hunter sentenced to 8 months of home confinement Harris endorses Democrat in tight California House race MORE (R-Calif.) on Tuesday said it’s “too late” to retake Iraqi cities like Ramadi from the forces of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

“It's too late for these cities. We're not going to have Americans going into cities again to free them. And I don't think the Iraqi militias can do it. This is going to be hard house-to-house fighting with suicide bombers. It's going to be a tough nut to crack,” Hunter, a Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, said during an interview with Fox News’s “On the Record.”

Hunter, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said the U.S. must play a greater role in ground operations against ISIS.

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“Somehow we need to get involved in this fight. No one else can get involved in this fight the way we can,” he said. “No one else knows these Sunni tribal leaders the way that we know the Sunni tribal leaders, because we have already done this, and we have won. We can show them how to win again.”

The White House and the Defense Department have acknowledged that the fall of Ramadi, a provincial capital, to the terrorist group earlier this week was a setback to the U.S.-led coalition campaign.

Despite a months-long bombing campaign and efforts to train local forces, ISIS still controls large swaths of territory inside Iraq and Syria, including several major population hubs.

The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that President Obama would accelerate training and equipping Sunni tribal fighters following the recent losses.

Hunter backed that approach, instead of relying on Shia militia groups supported by Iran.

“We don't want to fight under the Iranian-backed Shia militia. We are Sunni tribal fighters. We helped you once we can help you again," was the message from Sunnis, said Hunter.

"They said they can get over 5,000 people to go fight. That's where we are right now,” he said. “These are the guys that we need to arm, and we aren't arming them. We are not helping them in any way whatsoever.” 

He ripped Obama for the recent setbacks, saying a “feckless, naive foreign policy” led to a “total back slide” in Iraq.

Hunter said that he hoped his dire predictions “will be proved wrong.”

“They can't take Ramadi back. It took us — it was a hard nut to crack for us, both Fallujah and Ramadi. I don't think they can take them back. That's my call,” he said.

“I don't think they will be able to take any of these cities back once ISIS gets in them. Our air strikes can't help them. You can't change the politics on the ground by air strikes. You can't air strike a city. This is all the Iraqis now,” Hunter added.