Senator Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) said he will not support a key part of President Obama’s strategy for taking on the Islamic State.
“I have a problem with one part, and one part mainly, and that is paying for training and arming Syrian rebels that we’re not sure are our friends,” he said on MSNBC on Thursday. “Right now, I can’t do that — I cannot support arming the rebels who we have not been able to identify.”
For example, it remains unclear if the rebels sent American journalist Steven Sotloff to his death by capturing him and selling him to the Islamic State, where he was beheaded earlier this month, Manchin explained.
Manchin, a moderate Democrat, represents some of the divisions within his party, and Congress as a whole, towards the president’s approach for the growing threat in the region. He highlighted concerns that U.S. military engagement could escalate to sending over American troops and keeping them in Iraq long-term.
“We’re not good at putting troops on the ground, and getting out of that part of the world,” he said.
Other countries in the Middle East also have to take responsibility for countering the Islamic State and stabilizing the region, Manchin said. He also warned of the risk that aiding rebels might backfire, as has happened in the past.
“We have proven, for the last twelve years, that people we have trained, people we have clothed, people we have fed, people we have armed turn those arms against us,” he said.