Speaker John Boehner on Thursday said it is time for President Obama to take a "more active role" in dealing with "the ongoing threat of al-Qaida in Iraq," although he said he does not yet mean sending in American troops.
"There are things that we can do to help the Iraqis that do not involve putting U.S. troops on the ground," the Ohio Republican said, including getting equipment to the Iraqis and providing "other services that will help them battle this counterterrorism effort that they are attempting to do."
Boehner does not typically speak out on military issues. However, he had been among those instrumental in drumming up support for the troop "surge" in 2007, and in battling efforts to cut funding and prevent those deployments.
Shortly after beginning a news conference, Boehner, unprompted, told reporters, "Precious American blood was spilled and national treasure was expended helping the Iraqis remove a brutal dictator and repelling terrorist elements determined to stamp out human freedom and dignity."
"That progress is now threatened, and in the case of Fallujah, has been reversed," said Boehner, referring to reports of Iraqi military being defeated by Qaida militants.
Boehner went on to complain that Obama has delegated "his responsibilities to the vice president," and that "the administration has chosen to spend much of its time and energy trying to explain why having terrorists hold key terrain in the Middle East is not the president's problem."
He said a Status of Forces agreement with Iraq should have been agreed to.
Pressed specifically about whether he is calling for troops to be sent, Boehner said there are other things that can be done instead.
"One, I think the president ought to take a more active role in dealing with the issues in Iraq." He added, "Secondly, we need to get equipment to the Iraqis and other services that will help them battle this counterterrorism effort that they are attempting to do."
"The United States has, and will continue to have, vital national interests in Iraq," Boehner said. "We must maintain a long-term commitment to a successful outcome there. It's time the president recognize this and get engaged."
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