Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said Thursday morning that the U.S. must put American troops on the ground in the Middle East again, not only to fight the Islamic State, but also to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
"We're going to have to put boots on the ground, my friend, and we're going to have to do a lot more things than we're doing now if we're going to stem this tide and stop this horrific killing that's going on," he said on MSNBC's Morning Joe.
The ongoing beheadings and other killings by the Islamic State over the past few weeks have increased the urgency of the issue, and prompted the Obama administration to formally ask Congress for authority to continue its military campaign against the group. But Obama's request stresses that "enduring" ground force operations would not be permitted under that authority, a limitation that some say would hamper the ability of the U.S. to fight.
Many Republicans have hinted that limitation should not be included, but have stopped short of saying bluntly that U.S. ground forces will be needed to fight the Islamic State, which most recently executive 21 Coptic Christians on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.
"You develop a strategy, and elements of that strategy are American boots on the ground," he said.
"We need to have American forward air controllers, special forces, many others. I'm talking about, about 10,000 in Iraq," he said.
He also said the U.S. needs to declare that it's fight is also against al-Assad, who he called the "father of ISIS."
"[W]e need to say that our objective is to eliminate Bashar al-Assad as well as ISIS in Syria, and we recruit other Arab nations with Americans, but not too many, to fight against ISIS and Bashar al-Assad in Syria."
Very few others have said explicitly that U.S. ground forces need to return to the Middle East. Last September, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said "somebody's boots have to be on the ground," but stopped short of saying they should be American boots.