WASHINGTON (AP) -- Two of America's top military leaders will be asked to defend President Barack Obama's handling of the tinderbox of violence and struggle in the Middle East.
Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Gen. Martin Dempsey, who is finishing a four-year stint as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are to appear Wednesday before the House Armed Services Committee.
"There is a sense that we are at a particularly perilous time and that U.S. policy and strategy are inadequate," said Rep. Mac Thornberry, the committee chairman.
"When one factors in the turmoil in Yemen and Syria, the uncertainty about the future direction of Turkey, the doubts about us from traditional allies such as Egypt and the Gulf nations, as well as the continuing threats to our ally Israel, the plain hard facts show that the situation in the Middle East has deteriorated substantially in the last six years," said Thornberry, R-Texas. "What's worse, there seems to be nothing coming from the White House to change the trajectory."
Thornberry said he planned to ask Carter and Dempsey questions about the military component of U.S. strategy to reverse the downward spiral in the Middle East and protect American interests.
The two will almost certainly be quizzed about U.S. strategy to quell the advance of Islamic State militants. The White House last week announced the U.S. would send up to 450 troops to a new base in Anbar province in western Iraq, mainly to advise the Iraqis on planning and execution of a counteroffensive to retain Ramadi, the provincial capital. Dempsey has said that more such U.S. hubs could be opened elsewhere in Iraq as the campaign advances.
Other topics could include the administration's effort to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; the weekend airstrikes in Libya targeting an extremist leader linked to al-Qaida; Israeli security; and deteriorating conditions in Syria.