Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein warned Friday of the risk that the insurgent group ISIL could be preparing fighters to attack American and European targets.
"It has become clear that ISIL is recruiting fighters in Western countries, training them to fight its battles in the Middle East and possibly returning them to European and American cities to attack us in our backyard," the California Democrat said in a statement backing military action authorized by President Barack Obama. "We simply cannot allow this to happen."
Feinstein called for a broader military campaign against ISIL, not just the targeted missions authorized by the president.
"It takes an army to defeat an army, and I believe that we either confront ISIL now or we will be forced to deal with an even stronger enemy in the future. Inaction is no longer an option. I support actions by the administration to coordinate efforts with Iraq and other allies to use our military strength and targeting expertise to the fullest extent possible," Feinstein said.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., warned of a similar possibility in an opinion piece for Time.com .
"America's security interests extend well beyond the fate of Iraq’s religious minorities. Because ISIS, with thousands of foreign fighters, many of them from the West, will not rest once it has taken Erbil or Baghdad. Its expansionist ideology will lead it to attack U.S. allies in the region and eventually Europe and the United States," wrote Rubio, a member of the Intelligence panel.
Feinstein also said that if allowed to advance, the Islamic State may make a march toward the capital city of Baghdad.
"ISIL is capturing new Iraqi towns every day, is reported to be in control of Mosul Dam and is engaging in a campaign of ethnic cleansing that appears to be attempted genocide," Feinstein said. "I believe that once this group solidifies its hold on what it calls the Islamic State, its next target may be Baghdad."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in a statement that he looked forward to ongoing consultation as the ISIL situation develops.
"I support President Obama's decision to send humanitarian air drops to the thousands of stranded Iraqi civilians who have been forced to flee their homes and are at risk of dying. I also support the President's decision to launch air strikes as long as no combat forces are on the ground," Reid said. "These air strikes are the correct action for our national security, they will protect American interests and save lives in Iraq."
Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, cautioned against the risk of mission creep, however.
"I oppose open-ended military commitments, which the President’s actions in Iraq could become. Humanitarian relief is necessary to prevent genocide and provide food and water to meet an urgent emergency, but the President owes the American people a better, fuller explanation of the scope and strategy of military actions," said Blumenthal. "I am deeply concerned that these actions could lead to prolonged direct military involvement, which I would strongly oppose."
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