The Obama administration had a chance to hit the ISIS terrorist group in Iraq with drone strikes before they gained a stronghold in the northern part of the country this year, Rep. Ed Royce said in a congressional hearing Wednesday.
Royce, a California Republican, is chairman of House Foreign Affairs Committee. He said at Wednesday's hearing he had evidence that the Iraqi government had requested the United States to make drone strikes on ISIS at least as far back as March 24.
State Department official Brett McGurk told Royce that the requests came first in May, but Royce was not satisfied with his answer, and asked him why the United States was unwilling to help, according to Defense News
McGurk said that the Iraqis initially wanted to buy their own drones, but when that request was denied, they asked the United States to attack ISIS.
Instead, McGurk said, the United States' priority is to help the Iraqis with Hellfire missile strikes.
Marc Thiessen, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, reported on the exchange
on Fox News Channel's "The Kelly File" Wednesday, and gave a different timeline. According to Thiessen, Iraq had been making the requests for drone strikes since August 2013.
"The Obama administration was not caught by surprise. They were warned about this a long time ago," Thiessen said. According to Thiessen's timeline, the administration had a chance to stop ISIS before it took over cities that had been liberated by American forces.
"We could have stopped this before it happened," Thiessen said.
ISIS took over Fallujah in January, angering many veterans who had been involved in the capture of the city a decade earlier.
At the time, President Barack Obama told the New Yorker ISIS wasn't a major threat.
"The analogy we use around here sometimes, and I think this is accurate, is if a jayvee tem puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn't make them Kobe Bryant," Obama said.
Thiessen said the inaction "puts responsibility for what's happening in Iraq squarely on the president's shoulders. He had a chance to stop this."
One of the biggest obstacles was whether the Iraqi government would give the United States permission to do drone strikes, he said. All along, he added, they were giving the "green light."
The White House was putting out word that Obama was personally drawing up kill lists for drone attacks during the 2012 re-election campaign. Thiessen suggested Obama did not want to use drones in Iraq because it would have been an admission that his military withdrawal was a policy failure.
McGurk, in his congressional testimony, added, "We did see this coming. He told the committee that ISIS is "no longer a terrorist group" and has grown into "a full-blown army."
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