The Republican chairman of the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday said U.S. ground troops will be required to meet President ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaTop nuclear policy appointee removed from Pentagon post: report Prosecutors face legal challenges over obstruction charge in Capitol riot cases Biden makes early gains eroding Trump's environmental legacy MORE’s objective of destroying Islamic State terrorists.
Rep. Buck McKeonHoward (Buck) Philip McKeonCivil rights activist Dolores Huerta endorses California Democratic House challenger Bottom Line Trump pick brings scrutiny to 'revolving door' between Pentagon, industry MORE (R-Calif.) said full military divisions won’t have to be sent to Iraq and Syria, but that it will require putting U.S. soldiers in harm's way.
“It will not take divisions. But there’s no way around it; American boots will be standing on sand,” he said. “Americans will be shot at, and they will be shooting back. There’s simply no other way to do this.”
He noted that Obama has already sent more than 1,000 military advisers to Iraq to counter the threat of terrorists with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
In a prime-time address Wednesday night, Obama announced he would send another 475 advisers to the country.
McKeon confessed that his strategy “isn’t without risk” but that the U.S. can’t rely solely on counterterrorism efforts because it would not stop ISIS from spreading.
“I would much rather fight ISIL in Iraq and Syria today than fight them in Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Kurdistan tomorrow,” he said.
“We need a comprehensive strategy — one that pins ISIL down and knocks them out,” he said, using another acronym for the terrorist organization.
American voters have been leery of using ground troops after long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, though recent polls have shown support for more muscular actions against ISIS, which has brutally executive two American journalists.
Several Republican lawmakers have said ground troops should not be ruled out, but Obama in his speech insisted they would not be sent to Iraq.
McKeon was critical of Obama’s approach to ISIS, arguing he had repeatedly bowed to policies and suggesting he wasn’t doing enough to counter the threat.
“As much as I want the president’s approach to work, I believe the minimalist strategy he outlined last night will not get us there,” McKeon said in a speech at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.
McKeon accused Obama of allowing “politics to limit our chances for success.”
He endorsed a few pieces of Obama’s plan, including acting through an international coalition; ordering more airstrikes; stepping up intelligence collection; and training and equipping moderate rebel forces in Syria.
But he said Obama’s strategy should acknowledge that ISIS is “an immediate threat to U.S. national security.” Obama’s remarks Wednesday night stopped short of that, saying ISIS had the potential to threaten the homeland.
The outgoing lawmaker said the U.S. must “kick ISIL hard in both Iraq and Syria” simultaneously.
While he admitted that striking militants in Syria would “not be easy,” McKeon said an “ 'Iraq-first' or an ‘Iraq only’ approach won’t work” and backed the president’s push to arm and train moderate Syrian forces.
He later predicted Obama's legacy would be determined on how he fights ISIS over the rest of his term.
"He needs to zero in on this," according to McKeon.