WASHINGTON – Congressional support built Wednesday for increased U.S. military assistance to Jordan following a video purporting to show Islamic State militants burning a captured Jordanian air force pilot to death.
West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin said Jordan’s King Abdullah II – who met with lawmakers and with President Barack Obama on Tuesday – must be given “all of the military equipment” he needs to combat the group.
Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he expected his panel to swiftly approve legislation.
“We'll be looking at legislation we can pass rapidly,” McCain told CNN. “We’ve got to get them the weapons they need,” especially sophisticated weaponry McCain said the U.S. has been slow to provide.
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In the current year, the United States is providing Jordan with $1 billion in economic and military assistance. The Defense Department is also giving an unspecified amount of help to Jordan to secure its border with Syria. Islamic militants have grabbed significant swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq.
McCain repeated his criticism that the Obama administration has “no strategy” for dealing with the Islamic State group. He said he hoped the video of the death of the Jordanian air force pilot, Lt. Muath Al-Kasaesbeh, will galvanize not only U.S. leadership but “the Arab world.”
Manchin said that at Tuesday’s session with the king Abdullah did not ask for ground troops.
On the House side, Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said the king “expressed frustration that it takes so long for our bureaucracy to get help to him.”
“I think we have to support the leaders … who are trying to encourage Muslim leaders to reclaim their religion,” Thornberry said.
Appearing Wednesday morning with Manchin on MSNBC, Thornberry said he hopes the death of the 26-year-old Jordanian pilot has an impact on the West because “that sort of cruelty is pretty unimaginable for most of us.”
Obama hosted Abdullah at the White House for a hastily arranged meeting, hours after the video emerged online. Abdullah, who was on a previously scheduled trip to Washington, arrived after nightfall and made no remarks to reporters as he and Obama sat side by side in the Oval Office.
In the meeting, Obama offered “his deepest condolences” to the king over the pilot’s death, the White House said. “The president and King Abdullah reaffirmed that the vile murder of this brave Jordanian will only serve to steel the international community’s resolve to destroy ISIL,” said White House spokesman Alistair Baskey, using an acronym for the extremist group.
Al-Kaseasbeh, who fell into the hands of the militants in December when his Jordanian F-16 crashed in Syria, is the only pilot from the U.S.-led coalition to have been captured to date.
His death sparked outrage in Jordan, where the country’s participation in the coalition against the Islamic State group has not been popular. The video emerged following a weeklong drama over a possible prisoner exchange with an al-Qaida operative imprisoned in Jordan.