In the wake of recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton joined a bipartisan group of Senators in calling for an updated authorization of military force against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.
A possible vote on military authorization would be the first war vote in 13 years, as up until now, President Obama has used the congressional authorizations given to former President George W. Bush during the invasion of Iraq after 9/11.
During a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, on Thursday, Clinton called for a new phase in the war against ISIS, and said she thinks the U.S. should lead the fight.
“It’s time to begin a new phase and intensify and broaden our efforts to smash the would-be caliphate,” Clinton said. “This is a worldwide fight, and America must lead it.”
While Clinton called for the U.S. to increase its efforts to defeat ISIS, she said she does not believe ground troops will be necessary.
“That is just not the smart move to make here,” Clinton said. “If we have learned anything from 15 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s that local people and nations have to secure their own communities. We can help them, and we should, but we cannot substitute for them.”
Instead, Clinton said she thinks the U.S. should send more elite commanders to work with rebel forces. “We may have to give our own troops advising and training the Iraqis greater freedom of movement and flexibility, including embedding in local units and helping target airstrikes,” she said.
Clinton also called for a no-fly zone over Syria. “We should also work with the coalition and the neighbors to impose no-fly zones that will stop Assad from slaughtering civilians and the opposition from the air. Opposition forces on the ground, with material support from the coalition, could then help create safe areas where Syrians could remain in the country, rather than fleeing toward Europe,” Clinton said.
Indicating support for arming Sunni and Kurdish fighters, Clinton said that “Baghdad needs to accept, even embrace, arming Sunni and Kurdish forces in the war against ISIS. But if Baghdad won’t do that, the coalition should do so directly.”
“One thing that I believe we haven’t done yet is make it clear to Baghdad that we are going to be arming Sunni tribes and Kurds if they don’t, because at some point, they have to be in the fight,” she later remarked.
Clinton’s comments come after the Obama administration announced that it was ending the $500 million program training and equipping moderate Syrian rebels in October, after it was ultimately deemed a failure.
On Wednesday, GOP presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) promised to introduce a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). He said he believes the U.S. has two choices when it comes to the Islamic State: “fight them in their backyard or fight them in ours.”
“We must allow this President and every future President to do whatever is necessary to destroy ISIL before they hit us here at home,” Graham said. “This authorization will mirror the approach we took against al-Qaeda after 9/11.”
Graham’s measure against ISIS, which he promises to introduce after the Thanksgiving recess, could be as broad as the 2001 AUMF granted to Bush, which justifies U.S. military force anytime, anywhere, against anyone believed to be connected to Al-Qaeda.
On Saturday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, spoke out against the current U.S. strategy, and said she believes “we need to further increase our efforts in Syria and Iraq directly and expand our support to partner nations in other countries” where the Islamic State is operating.
“It has become clear that limited air strikes and support for Iraqi forces and the Syrian opposition are not sufficient to protect our country and our allies,” Feinstein said. “This is a war that affects us all, and it’s time we take real action to confront these monsters who target innocent civilians.”
Investigative journalist Ben Swann reported on the origin of ISIS in March, and he noted that while the perception has been created that the group is the “creation of American inaction,” the reality is that they are the “product of direct action.”