WASHINGTON — House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, issued a broad critique of the Obama administration’s Middle East strategy Tuesday, saying the president should re-engage U.S. troops in Iraq in a combat-like role to fight the rise of the Islamic State.
“I think the president is placing artificial constraints on our commanders,” Boehner told reporters at a roundtable to discuss his recent trip to the Middle East. “We’ve got 4,500 troops in Iraq. They’re only there to train and advise the Iraqi army.”
“We’re not talking about 100,000 troops on the ground; nobody needs to throw that canard out there,” he said. “But we have troops there that could provide a lot more assistance to the Iraqi army if they were given the ability to do so.”
The speaker stopped short of calling them combat troops, although he made clear that he believes U.S. forces should be given more latitude to help Iraqi military forces. “I wouldn’t call it a combat role. I would call it more of a plan-and-direct. Rather than just training, more engaged in helping the Iraqis fight the fight,” he said.
Boehner said he would support additional U.S.-Iraq financial assistance. Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is in Washington this week publicly pressing for billions of dollars in foreign aid to boost his nation’s military, among other things.