Republican Rep. Mike Rogers told CNN Sunday he'll "never say never" to the possibility of U.S. combat troops returning to the ground in Iraq to fight Islamic extremists.
The question has come up in recent weeks as the Obama administration has watched the Iraqi leadership stumble in a bitter war against the terrorist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
Rogers, who chairs the House Select Committee on Intelligence, cautioned that he doesn't think sending in combat troops is necessarily beneficial at this point. But he also said President Obama is giving away too much strategically by placing such strict limits on the U.S. military role up front.
"I don't think anyone believes that that's the right solution for this particular problem. But we need to send the message that we are willing to stand up against growing terrorist organizations," said Rogers, who represents Michigan's 8th Congressional District. "This is a growing, dangerous problem and we've got to have a coordinated response in order to deal with it."
Iraq is facing an onslaught from ISIS jihadists and is battling to wrest control of the strategically-located Mosul Dam from the militants, who recently took it over. As the largest dam in Iraq, it provides water and energy to much of the country. U.S. officials are concerned that if the terrorist group blows up the dam or opens the flood gates, it could endanger nearly 1.5 million lives and send floodwaters all the way to Baghdad, where the U.S. Embassy is located.
The United States staged airstrikes over the weekend as part of a joint operation with Iraqi and Kurdish forces to take back the dam from ISIS control.
When Obama authorized airstrikes in Iraq earlier this month, he said they would be limited to safeguarding U.S. interests and personnel and to help alleviate the growing humanitarian crisis. Even before the broadening of the U.S. airstrikes to protect infrastructure like the Mosul Dam, critics voiced concern about "mission creep" and have called for the President to seek congressional approval for further airstrikes.
Rogers disagrees. "I don't think he needs to come back (to Congress) for an affirmative vote," he said, adding that although Obama has the legal right to authorize attacks under the current Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), he should continue to work with Congress.
"This president does not play well with others when it comes to this policy," Rogers said. "He should constantly be working with members of Congress who have lots of interests, lots of time, lots of experience with these issues. Then I think he wouldn't get into this problem of members being irate that he doesn't come to them for a vote."