Lawmaker: Fight with militants needs ‘Arab face’

The Washington Times

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Washington, DC, December 1, 2014 | By Matthew Daly | comments

A Republican lawmaker says the battle against the Islamic State group needs to have “an Arab face,” even as the U.S. leads airstrikes to help defeat the militant group.

Rep. Rob Wittman of Virginia said he agrees with a comment made by King Abdullah II while Wittman and other members of Congress were visiting Jordan this week.

“The U.S. can help, but this effort needs an Arab face,” said Wittman, who chairs the readiness subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee.

Wittman called Abdullah a key ally in the fight against the Islamic State, which has seized territory in battles across Syria and Iraq. Jordan is one of five Arab nations participating in a U.S.-led airstrike campaign.

Abdullah is scheduled to hold talks with President Barack Obama at the White House next week.

“All the Arab and Muslim nations need to come together to combat ISIS,” Wittman said, using an alternate acronym for the group. He spoke in a telephone interview after returning from a five-day trip to Qatar, Afghanistan and Jordan.

Wittman called the Islamic militant group a “formidable force,” but said the U.S. and its allies have made progress to degrade it.

Still, airstrikes alone are not enough to defeat the militants, he said. But Wittman said he does not see a need for U.S. ground troops in Syria.

Obama this month authorized the deployment of up to 1,500 more American troops to Iraq. That could more than double the total number of U.S. forces to 3,100.

Besides Wittman, other lawmakers on the trip were Republican Reps. Mike Coffman of Colorado, Bill Flores of Texas and Reid Ribble of Wisconsin, as well as Democratic Rep. Dave Loebsack of Iowa and Del. Madeleine Bordallo of Guam.

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