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Republicans still calling for U.S. ground troops to fight ISIS

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, discusses the fight against extremists with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria
Kevin McCarthy: U.S. forces "probably" needed on ground against ISIS 03:49

President Obama has been adamant that the U.S. will not deploy ground troops to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS, also known as ISIL), saying American forces will degrade the group using airstrikes while regional partners fight the extremists on the ground in Iraq and Syria.

Some Republicans, though, have insisted American ground troops will eventually be necessary, and they've chided the president for taking that option off the table.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California, said Sunday on "Face the Nation" that U.S. Special Forces will likely need to be deployed to determine the efficacy of the air campaign.

"I think Special Forces and others are probably going to have to be on the ground," he said, "because after those missiles hit and they get out of those Humvees, they repaint their trucks, we have got to know where they are, and are the hits being successful?"

"I don't think we should ever sit back and tell our enemies what we will and will not do," he explained. "If we need Special Forces there, if that's what the generals say, then we need to do it. If we engage in a conflict that we know this is a threat to America, we should make it so one-sided that it gets over very quickly. So, we should have everything on the table to make sure we win this."

Moderate rebel forces crucial to defeating ISIS 02:23

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, who has long derided the president's approach to ISIS as a day late and a dollar short, warned that U.S. reliance on regional partners to fight the ground war against ISIS is foolhardy.

"At the end of the day, you cannot destroy ISIL in Syria without a ground component," he told CNN on Sunday. "And what we're doing with the Free Syrian Army is militarily unsound...this mythical Arab army that we're trying to get up to go in on the ground in Syria will need a lot of American hand-holding. And if it takes a year before we can go to Mosul, I can only imagine how strong [ISIS] will be."

Graham called on the president to "level with the American people."

"You need boots on the ground," he said. "American soldiers need to go back to Syria and Iraq as part of a coalition. And we're going to need more than 4,000 to destroy [ISIS] in Iraq and Syria.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., did not specifically address the question of U.S. combat troops during an appearance on "Fox News Sunday," but she warned that the president may not have the political will to implement a muscular strategy to fight ISIS with midterm elections looming.

"I'm very fearful that as we look at the current military strategy that it is surrounding the November elections and that he won't have the resolve to follow through with what needs to be done in a sustained effort to destroy ISIS," she said.

Pres. Obama: Confident in the coalition against ISIS 01:27

Democrats, though, have held fast to the administration's message - no American ground troops in combat roles against ISIS, period.

"There will be troops on the ground," Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, told CNN on Sunday. "There are over 200,000 Iraqi national security forces. There are Kurdish Peshmerga forces."

After CNN's Candy Crowley raised Graham's concern that U.S. partners fighting ISIS on the ground are not be ready for primetime - and may not be ready for some time - Reed replied, "That's absolutely true."

But the Rhode Island senator said Gen. John Allen, who's been tasked with leading the anti-ISIS coalition, would ably oversee the "rejuvenation" of the Iraqi military and other U.S. partners who are fighting ISIS militants.

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