WASHINGTON -- The Senate's only Iraq war veteran, Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.), cautioned President Barack Obama on Tuesday over "mission creep" in Iraq after the administration announced it was committing another 200 U.S. troops to the beleaguered country.
The White House's latest announcement that U.S. forces were being deployed to help secure the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the nearby airport raises the number of Americans heading for Iraq to 775.
“A continued escalation of U.S. commitment in Iraq is troubling," Walsh said in a statement.
"The president has promised to prevent ‘mission creep.' But how many Americans will we deploy? How much money will we spend?" asked Walsh, who was awarded the Bronze Star during his service in Iraq and was eventually elevated to the rank of brigadier general.
"How long until we demand the Iraqi people stand up and defend their own government? Montanans deserve transparency and answers," Walsh said.
Walsh, who is facing a tough election battle, was appointed to the Senate after Obama named former Democratic Sen. Max Baucus to be the U.S. ambassador to China.
Walsh is not the first Democrat to raise concerns about sending U.S. forces back to a country that is increasingly riven by sectarian fighting, with the Sunni-led, terrorist-linked ISIS -- the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham -- capturing large swathes of ground from the Shiite-led government forces.
Before Congress departed for the Fourth of July break, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) -- another centrist Democrat and a close Obama ally who was the president's first chairman of the Democratic Party -- took to the Senate floor to warn Obama that he has a responsibility to come back to Congress for approval if he intends to take more significant military action in Iraq.
"I do not believe that this president or any president has the ability, without Congressional approval, to initiate military action in Iraq or anywhere else, except in the case of an emergency posing an imminent threat to the U.S. or its citizens," Kaine said. "And I also assert that the current crisis in Iraq, while serious and posing the possibility of a long-term threat to the United States, is not the kind of conflict where the president can or should act unilaterally."
At the time, Obama had committed some 300 troops.
The objections of two moderate Democrats, including a decorated veteran of Iraq, could signal trouble for the White House should the president conclude a more robust response is required in Iraq.