Lindsey Graham warns of "Paris on steroids" if ISIS not defeated

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, warned that the U.S. would soon see "Paris on steroids" if the U.S. does not take more aggressive action to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), alluding to the recent terror attacks in Paris last month.

"We are being overwhelmed, quite frankly. Syria and Iraq combined are the best platform to launch an attack on the United States I've seen since 9/11," Graham said in an interview on "Face the Nation" Sunday. "Foreign fighters flow with passports that can penetrate the United States or our Western allies, so you'll see Paris on steroids here pretty soon if you don't disrupt this organization and take the fight to them on the ground."

Both Graham and former Secretary of State James Baker, who was also interviewed on "Face the Nation," argued that the U.S. must do more than conduct airstrikes to drive the Islamic militants out of Iraq and Syria, where they have established a foothold of nearly 20,000 square miles.

"An aerial campaign will not destroy ISIL," Graham said, using an alternate name for the group. "You're going to need boots on the ground, not only in Iraq, but Syria. And there's got to be some regional force formed with an American component somewhere around 10,000 American soldiers to ally with Arab armies in the region and go in to Syria and take back territory from ISIL. That's what will make it stop."

He elaborated that the American troops should be special operations forces, intelligence personnel and forward air controllers who could embed with troops from places like Saudi Arabia and Turkey to fight ISIS on the ground.

Baker, who served as secretary of state under former President George H.W. Bush, said there should be "no American boots on the ground, in my view" but that doesn't preclude putting special ops forces and air controllers in the region to help with the air campaign.

"We are going to have to find a way to put some boots on the ground. We might be able to find that in Iraq with the Iraqi army, if we get them trained up. So far it doesn't look very promising," Baker said.

In Syria, Baker said, "you can't win this war just from the air." He said the U.S. should approach Turkey, a longtime ally and NATO member that also wants to see ISIS destroyed, and offer to supply air power, logistics and intelligence to support Turkish troops on the ground, as well as recruiting troops from other allies like Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.

But the idea of sending more Americans to the region would likely meet resistance from many Democrats.

"I disagree with my friend Lindsey Graham about an invasionary force or 10,000 Americans," said Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, in a separate interview. "To plunge them into the chaos and the carnage of Syria at this point would be a serious mistake in my view. Let's work to build and support this coalition of indigenous efforts in the region to bring stability."

Durbin also urged Republicans to immediately pass a bill funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). House Republicans are trying to block President Obama's executive actions on immigration through the funding bill when it expires in February, a move that has drawn criticism from Democrats.

"Let us properly and quickly fund the premiere agency to keep America safe," Durbin said.

  • Rebecca Kaplan

    Rebecca Kaplan is a political reporter for