Graham: Jordan ‘onboard’ with ground forces vs. ISIS, but wants US to lead

Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations are ready to send ground forces into Iraq and Syria to try to destroy the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, but are waiting for U.S. forces to join them, according to a Republican senator. 

When asked if Jordan was onboard with sending ground troops, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) replied, “Yes. Saudi Arabia is onboard, everybody’s onboard.”

“They just want us to be part of the mix because they have limited capability,” he said, before meeting with Jordanian King Abdullah at the Capitol. Graham made his comments earlier this week. He traveled as part of a congressional delegation to Saudi Arabia and Qatar last month. 

{mosads}Abdullah’s visit to Capitol Hill coincided with ISIS releasing a video showing it had burned alive a Jordanian pilot it captured in December. Jordan, a partner in the U.S.-led airstrike campaign against ISIS, has since promised to strike back. It has already executed two prisoners in revenge.

Jordan has not confirmed it is ready to send ground forces to fight against ISIS, and its foreign minister gave an opaque answer when asked about the issue Thursday on CNN. 

“It will require everything…it is a fight along multiple tracks,” Nasser Judeh said of the battle against ISIS. 

Graham’s comments build upon those of Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.), who told The Hill in November after visiting Jordan: “At the current time there are no Arab-country forces on the ground in either Iraq or Syria. There are discussions on how to do that.”

The debate over whether to send U.S. ground troops into combat in Iraq and Syria could come to a head as the administration prepares to send a request to Congress for war powers authority in the coming days. 

Republican defense hawks like Graham have long called for putting more U.S. troops into Iraq and Syria to help lead indigenous forces in the fight against ISIS. 

Graham has called for putting 10,000 U.S. forces in each of Iraq and Syria. In Iraq, he said, “Part of that ground component will have to be an American component because we have capability missing in the Iraqi Security Forces, the Sunni tribes, the Kurdish Peshmerga. 

“There is no ground component in existence regarding Syria, you’ll have to create one from the region,” he added. 

Graham said U.S. forces could provide much-needed logistics, intelligence gathering, special operations, forward air controlling, and other assistance. Recently, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said some U.S. troops might be needed to assist Iraqi forces in the fight. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey has said retaking Mosul could require U.S. troops. 

White House officials agree that “ground forces” will be needed to push ISIS out of Iraq and Syria, but say those forces should consist of Iraqis and moderate Syrians. The US has begun training programs for Iraqi forces; the training of Syrian rebels is scheduled to commence in the spring. 

Calls for a regional ground force could rise after the Jordanian pilot’s death. 

“We are upping the ante. We’re going after them wherever they are, with everything that we have. But it’s not the beginning, and it’s certainly not the end,” Judeh said.

Tags Chuck Hagel Iraq ISIL ISIS Islamic State Lindsey Graham Martin Dempsey Rob Wittman Syria
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