House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce on Friday introduced legislation to arm Kurdish fighters who are being outgunned by Islamic State fighters, after the disparity of force between the two sides has resulted in enormous loss of life and continues to threaten the newly formed Iraqi government.
Royce (R-Calif.) said in a statement the bill would establish a policy to "provide direct support assistance to the Kurdistan Regional Government to combat" the Islamic State group.
An Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga reacts as a military convoy carrying heavy weapons passes through the Nusaybin district of Mardin, Turkey, Oct. 29, 2014. The Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government sent its forces to fight alongside the armed groups against Islamic State militants in Kobani in a special arrangement with Turkey. (Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Royce has previously told TheBlaze that maintaining the fight against the Islamic State will not be possible if Kurdish peshmerga, or fighting forces, are not properly armed and provided direct assistance from the U.S.
“Our critical partner in the fight against ISIL is badly outgunned," Royce said in a statement. "Despite being armed mainly with antiquated weapons, the Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga forces have proven to be the most effective ground force currently fighting ISIL."
The chairman said he's urged the Obama administration to arm the Kurds for months: "So too have many others in Congress. This important legislation will finally allow the 190,000-strong force to get the firepower it needs to effectively fight this brutal terrorist organization."
The legislation comes after limited and targeted airstrikes against Islamic State fighters in the region has not stopped the militant group's momentum. On Friday, reports said Islamic State fighters had mounted an offensive on Iraq's provincial capital of Ramadi.
The Iraqi government said the radical fighters attacked a government complex and have coordinated an offensive to seize control of the city only 90 kilometers from Bagdad, providing one of the most challenging national security crises since U.S. troops withdrew from the region in December 2011. The Islamic State has already seized large swaths of territory in Iraq's northern and western regions.
Although Obama is preparing to send 3,100 military advisers to the region to work with weakened Iraq security forces, military officials are at odds as to whether there is a need for full-scale U.S. ground troops to win back the region from the radical terrorist organization that has established a de-facto state.
Royce's bill would formally identify Iraqi Kurds "as a reliable and stable partner of the United States" and will recognize "that the peshmerga are the official security force of the Kurdistan Regional Government, organized in accordance with the Iraqi Constitution."
It would also require congressional oversight of significant arms transfers and stipulates it would "sunset after three years, in recognition of the emergency nature of this authority."
A senior congressional official who recently traveled to the region told TheBlaze that Kurdish rebels have not been receiving the limited number of weapons supplies currently being sent to the region through the Iraqi government.
"The Kurdish, Yazidis and few Christians who are left are fighting for their lives," the official said. "They feel abandoned by the administration and they are like lambs being left to the slaughter. Something needs to be done before we lose Iraq entirely to [Islamic State]."
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