Tonight, the President outlined a comprehensive strategy for the U.S. and a broad coalition to take action against ISIL, a vicious terrorist group that has brutally murdered Americans and threatens our national security interests. I believe it is prudent for the U.S. to take action now to eradicate ISIL.
This effort must be supported by a broad coalition of countries. I welcome the Administration’s efforts, including extensive work by Secretary of State John Kerry, over the past few days and weeks to build a coalition that is committed to fighting ISIL. The Administration will need to continue its work to ensure all coalition members step up to the fight. I have urged the Administration to prioritize efforts to dismantle ISIL’s financial networks. This will help dampen their recruiting efforts and their operational effectiveness over time. I welcome the President’s commitment to ensuring there is an interagency effort to hold accountable those individuals who do business with ISIL in violation of international sanctions.
I also support the President’s commitment to training and equipping the moderate, well vetted Syrian opposition. I have called on the Administration to take more robust measures to support the moderate opposition for several years. Any effort to assist these forces must be well coordinated with other members of the coalition and must include a thorough vetting effort.
Protecting Americans must be our top priority. I will continue to press the Administration to ensure they are working with coalition partners to stem the flow of foreign fighters into Syria. I will also continue to urge the Administration to ensure American personnel at our diplomatic and support facilities in the region have the resources they need to do their jobs effectively and safely.
We should be proud of the American men and women, especially our servicemembers, who are already helping to degrade ISIL Degrading and defeating ISIL will take time and there will be risks, but I support the strategy laid out by the President tonight and will work with my colleagues to ensure the Administration has the necessary resources and authorization to implement it swiftly and effectively.
Tomorrow is World Refugee Day, an annual event to celebrate the contribution of refugees throughout the world and draw attention to their continuing needs. I am proud that Pennsylvania has been a leader in welcoming refugees to the United States, with more than 100,000 refugees from over 30 nations making our state their home since the mid-1970s. As a United States Senator, I have sought to draw greater attention to the plight of refugees and internally displaced persons in Iraq, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan. Large refugee populations pose not only a humanitarian crisis, but can impact the political and economic stability of states critical to our national interest.
Last year, I went to the Senate floor to deliver a floor statement recognizing the importance of World Refugee Day. This year, I was honored to attend a reception yesterday evening hosted by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). At the reception, I enjoyed a chance to say hello to Angelina Jolie, the UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador.
Under President Obama's initiative, the United States has initiated the withdrawal of its troops from Iraq. The Iraqi government will face many challenges to protect its citizens and ensure the country’s stability. One of those challenges will be dealing with a refugee crisis that has affected the lives of nearly five million Iraqis. Since the beginning of the Iraq war in 2003, over two million Iraqis have been forced to relocate indefinitely to Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and other countries in the region. Two million more have been forced from their homes and are stuck in camps for displaced persons inside Iraq. The majority of them are unable to return home because their old neighborhoods are unsafe. In addition, many do not have any prospects for employment. At the moment, the Iraqi government does not have the capacity to reintegrate such a large number of people back into society.
The United States has a moral obligation to assist these people whose lives have been turned upside down as a consequence of the war. I am pleased that the White House is committed to providing over a hundred million dollars of assistance and plans to increase the number of Iraqi refugees who will be resettled in the United States. In a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee hearing that I chaired on this topic and in subsequent exchanges with senior Administration officials, I have encouraged the Administration to devise a comprehensive strategy to deal with this crisis.
Click here to read my opening statement from the hearing on the Iraqi refugee crisis.
Refugees International Iraq