By Scott Robertson and Tammy Childress
A third Iraq war is all but assured, Congressman Phil Roe said Friday, and it will be neither a short nor simple affair. “It breaks my heart to say it, but yes, we are sending troops back to Iraq.”
While President Barack Obama said in a speech last week, “We will not be dragged into another ground war in Iraq,” Roe is of a different opinion. “I hope our president doesn’t think that this is over with the speech he gave this week. This is going to be long. It’s going to be hard and we’re going to lose some people,” Roe told News & Neighbor Friday afternoon.
The president plans to send 475 troops to support Iraqi and Kurdish forces with training, intelligence and equipment. The move comes as part of a four-part strategy the administration has put forth to “degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL.”
The administration strategy includes airstrikes against ISIL targets and increased training for groups already at war with ISIL, including Syrian rebels and the Iraqi National Guard.
Roe is skeptical of the administration’s ability to run a successful campaign against ISIL from the skies. “We say that we’re not going to have anybody involved in combat, but we will,” Roe said. “I don’t know what that number is. As the battlefield unfolds you have a better idea but right now you don’t know. I do know this air power has never won a war. And this is a war.”
In addition, Roe said, the idea of arming moderate Islamic factions in Syria to fight against ISIL is still a hotly debated topic in Congress. “First,” Roe said, “we don’t know who they are.
“The idea is that we’re going bring these ‘moderates,’ to some other site, train them up, send them back, put them in the fight and then we will direct air power to help them,” Roe said. “It could be the same thing as the Mujahideen in Afghanistan where they just turn the guns right back on us. There’s going to be a lot of debate about that, no question, about arming them up.”
Roe acknowledged a certain amount of Iraq war fatigue in the American populace, but compared the situation in the Middle East today to that in Southeast Asia half a century ago. “We’ve been in Korea for 60, 65 years now? I said five years ago when I first went to Afghanistan, if we don’t stay 100 years, It’s not going to matter. A lot of people want us out of there. I got an email today from a friend of mine. He just wants us to close every foreign base and come home. The problem is, trouble will come home with that.
“As much as I don’t want us involved in anything around the world if we don’t have to be,” Roe said, “these people are an intrinsic danger to us, and to