Rubio, Kasich Would Send More Ground Troops to Syria, Iraq and Libya

Susan Jones | March 4, 2016 | 6:16am EST
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Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., argues a point during a Republican presidential primary debate at Fox Theatre, Thursday, March 3, 2016, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

( - Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) says he would send more American ground troops to Syria, Iraq and now Libya, where Islamic State terrorists are gaining a foothold.

"[I]t will require a specific number of American special operators, in combination with an increase in air strikes," Rubio said at the Fox News-hosted debate in Detroit Thursday night.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich went a step further, saying special operators won't be enough:  "We have to be there on the ground in significant numbers...And we have to be in the air."

The exchange began with moderator Bret Baier asking Rubio, "If you're for putting more U.S. ground troops in Iraq and Syria, are you also ready to send U.S. ground troops on the ground in Libya?"

Rubio responded: "What I've argued from the very beginning is ISIS -- in order to defeat ISIS, you must deny them operating spaces. This is how ISIS or any radical group, for that matter, can grow. It's how Al Qaida was able to carry out 9/11, is that the Taliban gave them an operating space in Afghanistan.

"Today that operating space has largely been based in Iraq and Syria, but I've been warning about the Libyan presence for the better part of two years. So they need to be targeted wherever they have an operating space.

"They do need to be defeated on the ground by a ground force made up primarily of Sunni Arabs themselves. This is a radical Sunni movement. They can only be defeated if they are driven out and the territory is held by Sunni Arabs.

"But it will require a specific number of American special operators, in combination with an increase in air strikes. And that will include, if necessary, operating spaces in Libya, which, in fact, they are using to project into the Sinai against Egypt and ultimately into Europe, as well."

Moderator Bret Baier then asked Gov. John Kasich if he would put ground troops in Libya:

"Look, let me tell you what happened with Libya," Kasich responded. "And I pointed out in the last debate -- Hillary Clinton worked aggressively to depose Moammar Gadhafi. We had no business doing it. He was working with us. He was cooperating with us. He denuclearized. And now they pushed him out, and now we have a fertile ground for ISIS.

"Fortunately in Libya, there's only a few cities on the coast, because most of Libya is a desert. The fact of the matter is, we absolutely have to be -- and not just with special forces. I mean, that's not going to work. Come on. You've got to go back to the invasion when we pushed Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. We have to be there on the ground in significant numbers. We do have to include our Muslim Arab friends to work with us on that. And we have to be in the air.

"And we -- it should be a broad coalition, made up of the kinds of people that were involved when we defeated Saddam. Now, you've got to be on the ground and in the air both in Syria and Iraq. And at some point, we will have to deal with Libya. I am very concerned about ISIS getting their hands on the oilfields in Libya and being able to fund their operations.

"The fact is -- cool, calm, deliberate, effective, take care of the job, and then come home. That's what we need to do with our military foreign policy."

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