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Rubio: Obama’s ISIS strategy ‘driven by domestic politics’

The Hill

President Obama’s approach to fighting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has been “driven by domestic politics,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) charged Monday.

The Florida lawmaker, who is weighing a presidential bid in 2016, said White House officials “reluctantly came to deal with this issue much later than they should have.”

{mosads}He blamed Obama, who he said wanted to be “the president who can brag about disengaging us from the Middle East.”

“As opposed to approaching this as, ‘What is the best strategy to defeat ISIS?’ and you’re seeing the results of it,” Rubio said during an appearance on Fox News’s “America’s Newsroom.”

Rubio went on to suggest that ground forces would be necessary to ultimately defeat the terror network, which has captured large swaths of Iraq and Syria and beheaded two American journalists.

“You cannot defeat an army on the ground simply from the air,” Rubio said. “And to put all your eggs in the basket of hoping local ground forces will be able to do the job was a deeply flawed strategy from the beginning — it’s the ideal outcome, but it is also increasingly the least likely.

“The likeliest outcome … will involve some coalition of ground forces from outside of Iraq to defeat ISIS,” he added.

The White House has repeatedly said it will not deploy U.S. boots on the ground to fight ISIS, and seized on Republican calls for ground forces to suggest the GOP favors a Bush-era reinvasion of Iraq. 

But press secretary Josh Earnest conceded last week that the president’s decision barring U.S. combat troops “limits our capabilities in this region.”

That’s led to new questions as ISIS advances toward the Syrian border town of Kobani. The mostly Kurdish town is only seven miles from the Syria-Turkey border. 

Secretary of State John Kerry said earlier Monday that holding the border town would not “define” coalition efforts against ISIS.

“Kobani is one community, and it’s a tragedy what is happening there,” Kerry said while traveling in Cairo. “We have said from Day One it is going to take a period of time to bring the coalition thoroughly to the table to rebuild some of the morale and capacity of the Iraqi army and to begin to focus where we ought to be focusing first, which is in Iraq.”

Rubio blasted Kerry’s remarks as “an absurd statement” and said they proved “how out of touch they are about this reality.”

“Imagine for a moment you are a Sunni or a Shia, for that matter, on the ground in Iraq who is preparing to go out and fight and confront ISIS and you’re all fired up because the U.S. is hitting from the air and yet despite these airstrikes, they keep winning,” Rubio said.

“Now you’re thinking to yourself, these guys are unbeatable, their invincible. Despite airstrikes, they are taking major cities. Why would I join a losing side?”

The Florida lawmaker went on to charge that the Obama officials were “doing anything they can to disengage us from the process by doing …  the least amount possible and it’s leading to this terrible outcome.”

Tags Barack Obama Iraq ISIS Islamic State in Iraq and Syria John Kerry Marco Rubio Syria Turkey

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