Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has outlined a new strategy to combat the so-called "Islamic State" and terrorism. However, the former secretary of state said that she would not put boots on the ground.
In a major foreign policy speech in New York Clinton called for an intensified air campaign against IS, upping intelligence and a greater role for US Special Forces to call in airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, but stopped short of supporting of advocating for US ground troops.
"We should be sending more special operators, we should be empowering our trainers in Iraq, we should be ... leading an air coalition, using both fighter planes and drones," she said at the Council on Foreign Relations on Thursday.
"The entire world must be part of this fight, but we must lead it," Clinton said.
In a policy position not too different than President Barack Obama, Clinton said she opposed deploying US troops and argued instead for local forces on the ground fighting IS and holding territory.
"Like President Obama, I do not believe that we should again have 100,000 American troops in combat in the Middle East, that is just not the smart move to make here," she said. She added that the US-led air campaign needed to be combined with local ground forces "actually taking back more territory."
The US currently has some 3,400 trainers in Iraq and plans to deploy about 50 Special Operations soldiers to northeast Syria to work with combined Syrian Kurds and Arab forces fighting IS in the area. In the past several weeks local ground forces in Iraq and Syria - particularly Kurdish forces - have made significant gains against IS.
"What we have done with air strikes has made a difference, but now it needs to make a greater difference," Clinton said.
Her comments set the tone for future debates with Republicans, who have accused the former secretary of state in the first Obama administration of being at the helm when IS first reared its head in Iraq and Syria.
Several Republican presidential candidates, including Jeb Bush and Senator Marco Rubio, have called for US ground troops to fight IS.
Clinton took the opportunity to bash Republican opposition to accepting refugees, even as later in the day the House with some Democratic support passed a bill that would restrict Syrian refugees from coming to the US.
"Turning away orphans, applying a religious test, discriminating against Muslims, slamming the door on every Syrian refugee, that is just not who we are. We are better than that," she said.
The terror attacks in Paris showed Europe is "way behind" in intelligence sharing and gathering, Clinton said, noting the US had made significant advances to streamline intelligence after the September 11 terror attacks.
"The United States must work with Europe to dramatically and immediately improve intelligence sharing and counter-terrorism coordination," she said.
"European nations don't even always alert each other when they turn away a suspected jihadist... or when a passport is stolen," she said.
The comments referred to the suspected leader of the Paris attacks, Abdelhamid Abaaoud, who apparently was able to enter Europe despite an arrest warrant out for plotting terror attacks.
Clinton also called for an US "intelligence surge" in the Middle East.
Middle East allies not doing enough
Clinton reiterated her support for a no-fly zone in Syria to protect refugees and rebel groups, a position advocated by Turkey that has gained little support from the Obama administration.
In an earlier interview on Thursday with CNN, Clinton said a no-fly zone would create pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to reach a political solution. She said the Obama administration has focused too much on ousting Assad instead battling IS.
The former secretary of state criticized US allies Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia for not doing enough to clamp down on the flow of fighters and terrorist financing.
"We need to get Turkey to stop bombing Kurdish fighters in Syria who are battling ISIS and become a full partner," she said, referring to Ankara's attacks on the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), whose Syrian affiliate the US has backed with air power against IS but Turkey considers a terrorist organization.
Thousands of foreign fighters have crossed into Syria from Turkey, which has backed multiple rebels groups and up to last year largely turned a blind eye to jihadist activity.
The Saudis and Qataris, she said, needed to prevent their citizens from funding radical jihadist groups. In a further criticism of the Saudi's, she urged the kingdom to refocus its resources away from fighting rebels in Yemen to take part in efforts to defeat IS.
cw/bw (AFP, AP, Reuters)