WASHINGTON (WNEW/AP) — President Barack Obama announced Wednesday night that he will be expanding airstrikes, including into Syria, and sending nearly 500 more U.S. troops to advise and assist Iraqi forces to battle the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria terror group. The president reiterated that American combat forces will not be fighting on foreign soil, but one Democratic senator believes that boots will eventually be put on the ground to take on ISIS.
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., told CBS News in a statement the U.S. “will probably put boots on the ground.”
“[B]ut it will be more commando raids and forward air observers with others to do the actual strikes on the ground,” Nelson said.
Nelson added: “We have no choice. This is a vicious, diabolical group that must be stopped. It’s going to be a long-term deal. It’s going to be probably years.”
Vulnerable Senate Democrats Mark Udall, D-Colo., and Mark Begich, D-Alaska, were skeptical of Obama stating once again that no troops will be fighting on foreign soil.
“I will not give this president – or any other president – a blank check to begin another land war in Iraq,” Udall told CBS News in a statement. “I will continue to demand that the administration provide a very clear picture of its goals and objectives.”
Begich, who said the U.S. “can’t continue to foot the bill of Middle East conflicts,” took issue with Obama’s plan to arm moderate Syrian rebels to fight back against ISIS.
“I am gravely concerned by reports of ISIS seizing and utilizing U.S. weapons intended for those fighting against the Syrian regime, and we must have greater assurance that we aren’t arming extremists who will eventually use the weapons against us,” Begich told CBS News.
House Speaker John Boehner said that Obama has “finally begun to make the case” to take out the terror group but many questions do remain.
“A speech is not the same thing as a strategy, however. While the president presented a compelling case for action, many questions remain about the way in which the president intends to act,” Boehner said in a statement. “For example, I support the president’s plan to train and equip the Iraqi Security Forces and Syrian opposition, but I remain concerned that those measures could take years to fully implement at a time when ISIL’s momentum and territorial gains need to be immediately halted and reversed.”
Boehner also said the Obama must view this as an “all-out effort to destroy an enemy that has declared a holy war against America,” and not an isolated counterterrorism campaign.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a statement that the United States military is ready when Obama gives the order.
“President Obama laid out a strong, comprehensive strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL, and the United States military is prepared to carry out its responsibilities in this counter-terrorism campaign,” Hagel said. “The men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces are ready to carry out the orders of our commander-in-chief, to work with our partners across government, and to work with our friends and allies around the world to accomplish this mission.”