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Rubio Presses Kerry On ISIL Strategy

Sep 17, 2014 | Press Releases

Rubio: “The reason why it’s not a hypothetical is, there may come a point where what you’re saying is that if the only thing that can solve this problem is U.S. combat forces, we’re not going to do that and ISIL gets to stay.”

Kerry: “… I’m not going to get into hypotheticals, but you’re presuming that Iran and Syria don’t have any capacity to take on ISIL. I mean, who knows? … I don’t know what’s going to happen here.”

Washington, D.C. –  At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) pressed Secretary of State John Kerry on why President Obama has ruled out using U.S. combat troops to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) terrorist group.

Video of the exchange is available here.

A partial transcript of the exchange is below:

Senator Rubio: “So my question is, if it becomes clear that the only way to achieve the ‘defeat of ISIL. Period. End of story,’ is for the engagement of American ground troops, will that be something the President will consider at that time?”

Secretary Kerry: “The President will not put American ground troops into Iraq. And the President made it clear again today in a statement that he made at CENTCOM that America can make a decisive – I’m quoting the President, ‘We can make a decisive difference but I want to be clear, the troops that have been deployed to Iraq do not and will not have a combat mission.’

“We believe, and we’re not going to deal with hypotheticals about what happens if, and this and this. We believe there are any number of options as to how one can guarantee the effect on ISIL long before you were to get to the hypothetical conversation about Americans. So I understand the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, whose job it is to look at it from his perspective, in terms of his military and his judgment. But the President’s made a judgment as Commander-in-Chief that that’s not in the cards and that’s where we are.”

Rubio: “So even if the only way –  the military experts — ”  

Kerry: “I’m not going to deal with a hypothetical — ”  

Rubio: “Well it’s not a hypothetical, it appears to be, quite frankly, we’re relying on a military strategy built on rebels who at this point are under assault, not just by ISIL, but by the Assad regime, by local Iraqi forces of which some testimonies say up to half are incapable of fighting at this stage, and Kurds that have been great fighters but are only willing to protect their territory.  

“This is a very clearly stated goal. The reason why it’s not a hypothetical is, there may come a point where what you’re saying is that if the only thing that can solve this problem is U.S. combat forces, we’re not going to do that and ISIL gets to stay.”  

Kerry: “But I think we’re so far away from that quote, ‘being the only way and hypothetical.’ I mean, honestly — ”  

Rubio: “Then let me ask you this — ”  

Kerry: “No, let me just finish that. I mean, I’m not going to get into hypotheticals, but you’re presuming that Iran and Syria don’t have any capacity to take on ISIL. I mean, who knows? I’m not going to get – I don’t know what’s going to happen here. Let’s start down this road and see — ”  

Rubio: “Well, let me ask you about that, then. So what you’re saying now is that there is the opportunity, the potential, that the U.S. would be coordinating with Iran — ”  

Kerry: “No, I never said anything about coordinating. If we’re failing and failing miserably, who knows what choice they might make. You prepositioned this on the notion we’re failing. I don’t believe we’re going to fail.”  

Rubio: “I didn’t preposition – I’m prepositioning on the statement — ”  

Kerry: “Yea, you did. You said if we fail.”  

Rubio: “Well again, I’ll go back to the report. I mean, the number of people including former Defense Secretary Gates has expressed his belief that it’s not possible. A number of highly qualified military experts have said they do not believe that the goal you have stated in your opening statement is achievable without a U.S. presence.”  

Kerry: “There are lots of possibilities. There are lots of possibilities between here and there. The President has said he is not going to put American — ”