WASHINGTON -- U.S. lawmakers voiced concern Sunday over the growing threat in Iraq posed by the Islamic State, the militant group seeking to establish a caliphate across Iraq and Syria.
"We need to defeat them," Sen. Ron Johnson said on "Fox News Sunday." "We need to be highly concerned about this. This threat is a gathering storm. It’s not going away."
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) made similar comments on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," likening the Islamic State, also referenced as ISIS, to a "cancer that's consuming all over the place."
"What we're watching in Iraq and in Syria frankly is the worst-case scenario for the Middle East," said Kinzinger, a veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan. "I think what we've begun doing is very good, but I think we have to get even bigger and realize that the crushing and pushing back of ISIS, not just in Iraq but also in Syria, is of utmost priority. It's something that we have to be involved in stopping."
According to reports on Saturday, Islamic extremists killed more than 80 men from the Yazidi religious minority group in a village in northern Iraq before abducting their wives and children. The massacre followed a week of targeted airstrikes on the militants by both the United States and the Iraqi military.
Kinzinger said the threat posed by the militants was only metastasizing, noting that the U.S. should consider all of its options to fight back. Asked if that included boots on the ground, the Illinois Republican said he doesn't want to see more U.S. troops deployed to Iraq, but warned the administration against taking anything off the table publicly.
"At the end of the day, I think the defeating of ISIS is the mission, and so I think everything has to be on the table for that end result," Kinzinger said. "I understand that the president doesn't want to put troops on the ground -- I don't either. You can't reintroduce 200,000 American troops."
Kinzinger said the U.S. should continue to send special forces to the region to assist the Iraqi military. New York Rep. Eliot Engel, the ranking Democrat on House Foreign Affairs Committee, said there may have to be some U.S. boots on the ground regardless.
"What’s going on in Iraq is horrific, and it warrants a response," Engel said on Fox, where he appeared alongside Johnson. "We cannot just put our heads in the sand and pretend it doesn’t exist."
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), also an Iraq War veteran, was the lone source of skepticism over the mission in Iraq.
"We're missing a critical question here, which is what is our mission? What are we trying to accomplish here?" said Gabbard, who appeared with Kinzinger on "This Week."
Gabbard said she supported heavily arming Kurdish forces and assisting with their efforts to retake parts of the country seized by the Islamic State. But she was critical of the Obama administration for not having a plan to defeat the militants.
"We heard from the White House last week, and I quote: 'These airstrikes are not part of a broad-based counterterrorism campaign against ISIS,'" Gabbard said. "So if our mission is not to take out the Islamic extremists who continue to threaten and wage war against us, then I think we’ve got a real problem here."
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