GOP senators: Obama needs to respond faster to ISIS threat

Greg Nash

Islamist militants operating in Iraq and Syria must be confronted with an immediate response that's rooted in a military plan, according to Republican Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.).

In a New York Times op-ed published Friday, McCain and Graham dismissed President Obama's ordered airstrikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as "tactical and reactive half-measures." 

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"Continuing to confront ISIS in Iraq, but not in Syria, would be fighting with one hand tied behind our back,” they wrote. “We need a military plan to defeat ISIS, wherever it is." 

The threat posed to U.S. and its allies by ISIS only grows over time and the administration must act with greater urgency, the senators argued.

"Doing too little to combat ISIS has been a problem. Doing less is certainly not the answer now," they added.

The op-ed appeared the same day as a companion column by Secretary of State John Kerry, who called for a broad, international coalition to “stamp out” ISIS."

In their piece, McCain and Graham said the response to ISIS must be “comprehensive” and include squeezing the group’s finances, seeing a new successful, inclusive government formed in Baghdad and the involvement of other regional partner.

"But ultimately, ISIS is a military force, and it must be confronted militarily," the senators wrote.

Such a plan would include providing training and military equipment to Iraqi and Kurdish security forces, as well as sending additional U.S. special forces and advisers to Iraq to assist in directing airstrikes, according to McCain and Graham.

In addition, a comprehensive strategy “should involve Congress.”

“We have consistently advocated revising the Authorization for Use of Military Force that has provided congressional backing for counterterrorism operations since September 2001,” the GOP lawmakers wrote. “Now could be the right time to update this authorization in light of evolving terrorist threats like ISIS.”

They predicted that if Obama lays out a “coherent strategy and determined leadership, he could win Congress’s support.” 

The president “should accept the necessity of further change and adopt a strategy to defeat this threat,” the pair wrote. “If he does, he deserves bipartisan support. If he does not, ISIS will continue to grow into an even graver danger to our allies and to us.”