A Marine veteran in Congress is blasting President Obama's Iraq policy after a comrade he served alongside was killed by the Islamic State group.

Rep. Seth Moulton, who served as a Marine captain and deployed to Iraq four times, said his "closest friend" in the Iraqi army was killed in an ISIS attack outside Mosul last week. bitter congressman with four combat tours in Iraq said President Obama’s "failed policy" is as much to blame as ISIS for the May 4 death of his "closest friend" in the Iraqi army. The Massachusetts Democrat said he is now pushing legislation that would require that the Obama administration create and explain a long-term strategy against the terror group "so that we don’t continue playing whack-a-mole in the Middle East."

Rep. Seth Moulton, a former Marine captain who is now a member of the House Armed Services Committee, tweeted about the loss of his friend, Lt. Col. Ehab Hashem Moshen, on Friday.  May 6 that he "lost my closest friend in the Iraqi Army to ISIS and our failed policy in Iraq." The message included a photo of the two, who Moulton and Lt. Col. Ehab Hashem Moshen. The two met in 2005 during Moulton's third tour to Iraq, during which he served  served as special assistant to Gen. David Petraeus, mission it was to train, equip, and organize an Iraqi security force.

"He went out on missions and ensured the best Iraqis were assigned to work with us," Moulton told Marine Corps Times of the Iraqi liaison. "He risked his life to protect mine."

The freshman lawmaker described Moshen, who remained in the fight against ISIS despite being wounded several times in recent months, was a rising star in of the Iraqi army, Moulton said. He who could have had any job he wanted, but chose to remain one who shunned a comfortable seat at headquarters for a spot on the front lines with his troops instead of taking a comfortable headquarters assignment, he said. He remained in the fight despite being wounded several times in recent months.

The battle that took the Iraqi soldier's life was Moshen was killed in an ISIS attack on May 4. It was an unnecessary one, Moulton added. battle in the eyes of his American friend.

"Our fundamental failure is we have never had a political plan in Iraq to ensure the peace," he said. Moulton told Marine Corps Times. "We’ve had short-term military plans to defeat the insurgent of the day, or the terrorists of the day, but never any long-term plan for stability.

As a result, Moulton said the Iraqis are now "re-fighting the same battles" U.S. troops fought 10 years ago.

"The terrible tragedy of Ehab's death [is that] he died fighting a battle we had already won," he said.

Moulton had been in the first company of Marines to enter Baghdad in 2003. The platoon commander partnered with the Iraqi Army during the Battle of Najaf one year later, but the friendship struck with a young Iraqi captain in Al Diwaniyah, south of Baghdad, proved memorable. Moshen was again instrumental in Moulton's fourth Iraq tour in 2007.

'We need a long-term political plan'

Moulton, a The Harvard grad who was with the first company of Marines to enter Baghdad in 2003, has penned an amendment to the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act that would require a semi-annual report on political and military strategies to defeat ISIS. the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. 

Specifically, it demands a detailed political strategy for transition to an interim government with internationally monitored elections; political reform and reconciliation between ethnic groups and political parties that includes a plan for passage of national guard legislation, repeal of de-Baathification laws, and a plan for equitable petroleum revenue sharing with the Kurdistan Regional Government; and a critical assessment of the current size, structure, and operating budget of the Iraqi Security Forces.

"People on both sides of the aisle recognize that we need a long-term political plan so that we don't keep sending our troops and our allies' troops to die for a mission that is unclear, for a cause that doesn't have an end game," Moulton said.

Moulton, who has been to Iraq twice since being elected to Congress in 2014, was quick to add that he doesn't see the military's strategy in Iraq as the problem, despite comments made by presidential candidates.

"The military has a strong plan to defeat ISIS, and it is going quite well," Moulton said. "ISIS has not gained any territory in Iraq since May of last year, so those who are advocating for more bombs or troops on the ground are completely missing the point.

"What is missing is the political dimension to ensure the stability of Iraq after we are done with the military so we don’t have to keep sending troops into the same battles again and again. … There hasn’t been a single military leader who has testified before [the HASC] who has disagreed with this point."

The amendment received the unanimous, bipartisan support of the House Armed Services Committee as well approval from the Foreign Affairs Committee. House and Senate lawmakers must reconcile differences between their respective versions of the authorization act National Defense Authorization Act before the defense bill can be sent to the president and become law. 

Lance M. Bacon is senior reporter for Marine Corps Times. He covers Marine Corps Combat Development Command, Marine Corps Forces Command, personnel / career issues, Marine Corps Logistics Command, II MEF, and Marine Forces North. He can be reached at lbacon@marinecorpstimes.com.

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