WASHINGTON, D.C. - This week Congressman Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA), a senior member of the House National Security Subcommittee, led an oversight delegation to Iraq and Turkey. In the wake of continued advances by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the brutal ISIS attack on the Syrian border town of Kobani, Lynch met with Kurdish Peshmerga and Syrian opposition leaders to assess the progress of regional and international security efforts to combat the global ISIS threat.
Lynch traveled to Erbil, Iraq to examine the readiness of the Kurdish Regional Government and its Peshmerga military forces to continue fighting against ISIS following the commencement of U.S. airstrikes against ISIS positions on August 7th. In particular, Lynch conducted a site visit to the recently-established Combined Joint Operations Center in Salah ad-Din, Iraq where Kurdish, British and U.S. military officials are working together to develop Kurdish counterterrorism operations against ISIS. Lynch also met with Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and Minister of Peshmerga Affairs Mustafa Qadir to discuss what additional equipment and assistance the Peshmerga forces will require to enhance their capacity to fight ISIS. Lynch was an early congressional supporter of the Kurdish Regional Government's request for U.S. military equipment and intelligence assistance in its efforts against ISIS and his corresponding letter to President Obama can be viewed HERE.
Next, Lynch conducted coordinated meetings in Ankara and Istanbul, Turkey - the site of Syrian Opposition Coalition headquarters - to examine the composition and readiness of the various Syrian opposition groups that could potentially receive U.S. training, equipment, and supplies to combat ISIS as well as the Assad regime. In particular, Lynch met with Syrian Opposition Coalition Political Committee Members Alia Mansour, Badr Jamous, Khaled Khoja, and Wasel Chamali and underscored that the Coalition must be fully transparent and accountable regarding the makeup and purpose of the opposition groups under its umbrella. Lynch also met with Gen. John Allen, Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIS, to further discuss the vetting process for Syrian opposition groups. In Turkey, Lynch also conducted a site visit to the Syriac Refugee Center in Samatya, Istanbul to meet with Syrian Christian refugees, including some families who have lived at the center for over three years after fleeing the conflict in Syria.