Democrat suggests boots on the ground always a possibility

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) on Thursday suggested boots on the ground is always a possibility when conducting a major military operation.

On CNN’s “New Day,” Nelson was asked whether boots on the ground in the Middle East is inevitable to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

“When you do a major military operation, you leave opportunities for all kinds of contingencies. It is clearly the intention of the United States that we are not going to put a land army in Syria, but to achieve an objective, you have to give yourself the flexibility to achieve that goal that you’re trying,” said Nelson, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Nelson said the United States military has so far been “very successful in Iraq” in assisting Iraqi security forces and Kurdish forces and launching airstrikes against ISIS. 

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“What we find in Syria, we’ll have to deal with at the time,” he said. “If the objective is to cut off the head of the snake, the ISIS snake in Syria, then that’s what we’re going to have to do.” 

Nelson did not explicitly advocate or predict there will be boots on the ground. Asked whether President Obama has talked himself into a corner on the issue, Nelson came to his defense.

“No I don’t. I think the president has been very deliberative. He’s been cool under pressure. He started the surveillance flights [over Syria]. He’s working a coalition,” he said.

Obama has repeatedly said there would be no U.S. boots on the ground during the conflict, but some are questioning the increasing number of U.S. forces being deployed to Iraq. More than 1,000 U.S. personnel have been sent to Iraq to help protect Americans and U.S. facilities. Obama administration officials say they aren't there in a combat role.

Earlier this week, Nelson said he intends to introduce a bill that would authorize U.S. airstrikes in Syria. Some lawmakers, including some Republicans, say Obama already has the power to carry out such an operation and doesn’t need congressional authorization.

“This is going to be a long-term affair, and as a result, we may as well have the Constitution followed, which is that the Congress declares war,” he said. “To go into Syria, legal scholars will debate as to whether or not he needs that by Congress declaring it.” 

Nelson expressed confidence Congress would pass his legislation.

“How many more beheadings is it going to take to get people to realize what we’re dealing with?” he said. “That’s why I think we’ll have success in a vote.”