House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP)
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HUNTSVILLE, ALA. — – The US “has got to step it up” in Iraq to drive out insurgent forces that have created a stronghold in the northern part of the country, a top lawmaker said Wednesday.
Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chairman of the powerful House Intelligence Committee, said the US “get a disruptive activity to” the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) , specifically near the Kurdish city of Irbil.
“If we lose Irbil, we are in some serious trouble in the north,” Rogers said when asked about the Obama administration’s response to the widespread violence in Iraq an annual Space and Missile Defense Symposium. “Certainly the Turks know it. Certainly the Kurds know it.”
The US military started launching airstrikes against ISIL fighters late last week using a mix of manned fighters and unmanned aircraft. The US military has also been airdropping food, water and supplies to civilians in the region.
On Wednesday, a small group of US special forces soldiers were flown to Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq for the first time to assess the situation of thousands of civilian refugees, according to Agence France-Presse.
Marine Corps MV-22 Ospreys ferried more than 100 US forces into Irbil on Tuesday and the US has also started sending weapons directly to Kurdish fighters.
“If we don’t get a disruptive activity to [ISIL] in days, weeks — months is probably too long — we are going to face a very serious consequence here in the United States or our European allies,” Rogers said.
Rogers said that stepping it up does not mean sending a large ground force into the Iraq. But at the same time, ISIL fighters – which he said produce about $1 million per day in black-market oil and has up to $1 billion in precious metals and cash on hand – pose a threat to the US.
“This is a threat to our own national security interests and we ought to act like it,” Rogers said. “That doesn’t mean the 101st Airborne needs to go back in, but it means we ought to empower out allies with the right equipment that they can take the fight back to these folks.” ■