June 23, 2015

Two Democratic Iraq veterans urge Obama to limit ground troops

Two House Democrats want their colleagues to sign a letter to President Obama urging him to resist calls to escalate U.S. military involvement in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), a former Marine, and Rep. Mark Takai (D-Hawaii), an Army National Guard lieutenant colonel — both members of the Armed Services Committee — say the U.S. should not fight the Iraqi military's battles for them.

"We fought in the Iraq War. We recognize the serious threat that ISIL poses to our allies in the region and support U.S. assistance to Iraq in its struggle against this deadly and determined enemy," a statement by Gallego and Takai said, using an alternative term for ISIS.

"However, we also strongly believe that we cannot fight the Iraqi military's battles for them. That's why we strenuously oppose calls to significantly escalate the U.S. ground commitment in this conflict," they said.

The letter has 17 signatures so far.

Gallego and Takai's letter comes at a time when other veterans in the House and Senate — mostly Republicans — are calling for an escalation in troop numbers and to allow troops to embed with Iraqi forces.

"We write to urge you to reject these misguided appeals," the Democrats wrote in the letter to the president.

The two veterans noted Defense Secretary Ashton Carter's comments that Iraqi forces lost Ramadi, provincial capital of Anbar, because they lacked the "will to fight."

"America's history has repeatedly shown that though we can give our allies the arms and expertise to fight our common enemies, we cannot impart the determination necessary to prevail on the battlefield," they wrote.

The letter would give lawmakers worried about the growing number of troops in Iraq an opportunity to voice their concerns, especially in the absence of a debate on whether to authorize military force against ISIS.

The House on Wednesday voted against a provision that would have called for U.S. troops to be withdrawn from Iraq and Syria by the end of the year.

The bipartisan measure, from Reps. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and Walter Jones (R-N.C.), failed 139-288, with 19 Republicans joining 120 Democrats in voting yes.

Source: Kristina Wong- The Hill