WASHINGTON — He was told to keep the meeting under wraps. For security reasons, the State Department said. So US Representative Stephen Lynch didn’t breathe a word.
Apparently the Iraqis did not have the same security concerns. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi tweeted a photo of his meeting Sunday with a US congressional delegation in Baghdad to discuss security in the western Anbar province where the Islamic State has advanced.
Lynch, a South Boston Democrat, is traveling through the Middle East this week with US Representative Jim McGovern of Worcester and other members of Congress. Their mission, according to Lynch, is to assess the US fight against the ISIS and the humanitarian impact in Iraq and Syria.
“Our concern is we’re building up a force here and we’d rather see this conflict won by Iraqi boots on the ground,” Lynch said in a phone interview from Amman, Jordan, on Monday. “We’re trying to figure out if this situation with ISIS can be dealt with by Iraqis.”
Lynch, the top Democrat in the House National Security Subcommittee of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said he supports US-led airstrikes but not the use of ground troops. President Obama recently ordered the deployment of an additional 450 American troops to the region, bringing the total to 3,550.
“We’ve already done this once,” Lynch said, at the cost of $25 billion and 4,500 American lives since 2003. “I don’t think it would be wise to do it again. The idea here is to reinforce the need for the Iraqis to step up and fight for themselves. And they are not happy about that.”
The week-long trip, which will conclude Thursday night, also includes stops in Kuwait, Jordan and Turkey, where the delegation will meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan about stemming the flow of fighters flowing over the Turkish borders into Iraq and preventing ISIS from smuggling illicit oil over the border to finance their operation.