News / Middle East

US Boosts Iraq Surveillance Flights

Reuters

The United States has boosted the number of surveillance flights over Iraq to nearly 50 a day from one a month as it faces Sunni Islamist militants who control swaths of Iraqi territory, a top State Department official said on Wednesday.

Washington has not yet authorized unmanned drone strikes, however, as requested by Baghdad, on the forces now known as Islamic State, Brett McGurk, deputy assistant secretary for Iraq and Iran, testified at a House of Representatives hearing.

"The formal request from the Iraqis for direct U.S. air support did not come in a formal way until May," McGurk said, which was too late to keep the Islamic State militants from overrunning Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city.

"And since that time, obviously, we've been looking at various options," he said.

The U.S. priority, he said, has been to "enable" the Iraqis to stop the insurgents on its own, using hellfire missiles, aircraft and the ramped up surveillance.

Islamic State, which shortened its name from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant after last month's advance, declared its leader "caliph" - ruler of all Muslims. It controls a stretch of territory from Aleppo in Syria to the outskirts of Baghdad.

McGurk's answers frustrated Republican and Democratic members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee who said the administration missed a chance to stop the militants six months ago.

They questioned whether the OPEC oil producer would survive, less than three years after the withdrawal of U.S. troops ended a war that cost more than $2 trillion and killed almost 4,500 American troops and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.

Iraq's million-strong army, trained and equipped by the U.S. for about $25 billion, largely evaporated in the north after Islamic State militants overran Mosul last month.

'Worse than al-Qaida'

McGurk described Islamic State as "worse than al-Qaida." "It's no longer a terrorist group. It's a full-blown army," he said.

Elissa Slotkin, acting deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, said the militants were particularly dangerous because they hold territory, have experienced fighters, are self-financing and include many Western passport holders who have traveled to Syria.

The United States has "up to" 775 troops in Iraq, of whom 475 are deployed to assure the security of U.S. personnel and facilities and 300 to monitor, including the amped-up surveillance and reconnaissance flights.

Committee members questioned administration officials about why Washington did not do more, and more quickly, as the militants advanced.

California Republican Representative Ed Royce, the panel's chairman, asked whether Iraq had sought U.S. air support as early as August 2013 or March of 2014, which could have prevented crisis from escalating in the region.

"The administration should have taken the opportunity to inflict decisive damage on ISIS from the air, through drone strikes while its fighters were encamped in the desert" months ago, Royce said.

Many lawmakers called for Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to step down, but administration officials declined to be drawn into discussing the issue.

 

 

You May Like

Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Seen as a potential driver of recovery, Cairo’s plan to expand waterway had been raising hopes to give country much needed economic boost More

Ebola Maternity Ward in Sierra Leone First of its Kind

Country already had one of world's highest maternal mortality rates before Ebola arrived, virus has added even more complications to health care More

Malaysia Flight 370 Disappearance Ruled Accident

Aircraft disappeared on March 8, 2014; with ruling, families of 239 passengers and crew can now seek compensation from airline More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Productioni
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Groundbreaking Hand-Painted Documentary About Van Gogh in Production

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid