Republicans Sunday roundly criticized President Obama for his handling of Iraq and the advance of Islamic State militants as the State Department announced it would remove some of its staff from the U.S. Consulate in Arbil in the Kurdish autonomous region. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said the United States needs to be more fully involved in the effort.
Obama last week authorized airstrikes against the rebels and humanitarian aid for minority Yazidis who were driven from their homes as hundreds were killed as others took refuge atop a mountain without adequate food and water.
“We can’t wait for [Iranian Prime Minister Nouri Al-] Maliki or the Iraqi parliament to fight [the Islamic State]. Every day that goes by [the militant group] builds up this caliphate," King said on "Meet the Press" Sunday. "They are more powerful now than Al-Qaeda was on 9/11. [Sen.] Dick Durbin [D-Ill.] says we’re not going to do this, not going to do that. I want to hear what he says when they attack us in the United States. I lost hundreds of constituents on 9/11. I never want to do that again.”
King said he would recommend massive airstrikes by ground-based aircraft, not from aircraft carriers, and arming the Kurds, who have asked for weapons so they can match the firepower acquired by the Islamic State when Iraqi troops fled the militant advance in June.
On "Fox News Sunday," Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., called the Islamic State a "direct threat" to the United States.
"To change that threat, we have to have a sustained air campaign in Syria and Iraq. We need to go on offense," Graham said. "There is no force within the Mideast that can neutralize or contain or destroy [the Islamic State] without at least American air power."
The criticism came as the United States removed staff from the Arbil consulate.
"The Department of State has relocated a limited number of staff members from the Embassy in Baghdad and the Consulate General in Arbil to the Consulate General in Basra and the Iraq Support Unit in Amman [Jordan]," the State Department said in a travel advisory. "The Embassy in Baghdad and the Consulate General in Arbil remain open and operating."
Previously, staff was removed from the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to Basra and Amman.