Zinke: Obama Needs to Give Congress a Plan to Fight Islamic State

Former SEAL says American inaction ‘emboldened Islamic terrorists’

Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) / AP
February 4, 2015

Rep. Ryan Zinke (R., Mont.), a retired Navy SEAL, plans to confront President Obama about his administration’s failure to confront the Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIS or ISIL) when newly elected members of Congress visit the White House.

Zinke, the first Navy SEAL in the House of Representatives, said that the White House needs to come to terms with the terrorist group’s increasing influence in the Middle East. The Montana congressman contrasted Obama’s attitude to that of Jordanian King Abdullah II, who vowed to fight IS "till we run out of bullets" in a meeting with the Zinke and members of the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday.

"The King of Jordan needs the Obama Administration to take this threat seriously and the Jordanian people need our help. Even the King of Jordan realizes this is as much of an Islamic civil war as it is a war against the West, yet the president refuses to use the words Islamic terrorism," Zinke told the Washington Free Beacon on Wednesday. "I plan on relaying this message tonight when I visit the White House and the Cabinet."

Video emerged Tuesday showing a captured Jordanian pilot burned alive by IS radicals.

Zinke served more than 20 years in the United States Navy as a SEAL, rising to the rank of commander. He was Deputy and acting Commander, Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Arabian Peninsula, commanding more than 3,500 special forces operators during the Iraq War, earning two bronze stars in the War on Terror.

He also helped train the Iraqi military and other Middle Eastern fighters that are now battling IS for control of the region. Much of that progress has been erased, as IS has overrun Iraqi military and police forces across the country. Zinke said that the administration’s reluctance to deploy boots on the ground in support roles, such as logistics and intelligence personnel, are partly to blame.

"When I was in the region, we were able to work with local Sunni and Kurdish tribes to fight against the radical Islamic terrorists. We were able to separate the radicals from mainstream Islam. Our allies trusted America to help them get the job done. The radicals were actually on the run. Now, it’s totally different: our allies don’t trust us and the president’s inaction has emboldened Islamic terrorists. ISIS is gaining territory every day."

Zinke called on President Obama to work with Congress to get authorization to deploy troops to fight IS.

"I have been in the theater. I have fought terrorists in the region. So have the President’s advisers. We are all saying airstrikes alone are not enough," he said. "The U.S. is capable of assisting our allies in ways beyond ground troops that are highly effective—fuel, food, medical supplies, munitions, heavy equipment and support staff.  Special Forces would also be effective in fighting ISIS."

He said that he is "beside himself" that the House Armed Services Committee has heard more from King Abdullah than President Obama.

"We are urging the president—the commander in chief—to present us with his plan," he said. "Congress is not going to authorize any plan that allows the Obama Administration to continue negotiating with terrorists, as was the case with [former Taliban POW and alleged deserter Bowe] Bergdahl, and we won’t simply give the president a blank check."