- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 17, 2014

It’s been more than a decade since former President Bush assembled a “coalition of the willing” and sent American ground forces to Iraq, but lawmakers from both parties said Sunday it may be time to repeat those steps in order to counter a burgeoning army of Islamist extremists who continue to make key gains in Iraq and Syria.

Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” Rep. Eliot Engel, New York Democrat and his party’s ranking member on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said it may become necessary for President Obama to deploy ground troops to Iraq — something the White House has ruled out time and time again.

Mr. Engel’s words come as the U.S. continues to carry out airstrikes against the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS. Over the past week, American forces have delivered humanitarian aid to Iraqi civilians surrounded by the terrorist group and also have targeted the Islamic State group in key positions throughout Iraq, including near the Mosul Dam.

But those strikes may not be enough, Mr. Engel said.

“Ultimately we may have some boots on the ground there — not something I want but you know what, we have bad choices and the worst choice is to do nothing,” he said.

Mr. Engel also said the U.S. should consider targeting the militant group’s forces in Syria, saying the border between Iraq and Syria has been “obliterated” and the fight no longer can be confined to one nation.

Meanwhile, Sen. Ron Johnson, Wisconsin Republican and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Mr. Obama should follow the lead of his predecessor and recruit NATO members and other nations to battle the Islamic State group.

“Right now what the president has to do is assemble a coalition of the willing,” he said.

Mr. Johnson said the Islamic State group cannot be allowed to thrive in Syria or Iraq.

“This threat is a gathering storm. It’s not going away. … We may be war weary, but ISIS is not war weary,” he said. “Their long-term aim is really to use that base of operation [in Iraq and Syria] against the West.”