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

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Official Pleased With Ebola Containment Measure

Official says three-day sensitization effort will help reduce infection rate of Ebola disease nationwide More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As the tumult in the Middle East distracts Obama, shifting American focus eastward appears threatened More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’i
X
Jeff Seldin
September 20, 2014 10:28 PM
Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Fears Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid