As other Republican presidential candidates propose sendingtroops to the Middle East to fight ISIS, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paulsays he is still staunchly against putting American boots back onthe ground.

“The first Iraq war didn’t make us safer,”Paul told The Daily Caller. “Didn’t make the region anyless chaotic. The first Iraq war destabilized the region and hasled to the current chaos. I don’t think another Iraq War isgoing to make it better.”

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, in the wake of the Paris terroristattacks, said in a speech this week he would like to see anunspecified number of U.S. troops fighting ISIS in the region.Another candidate, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, is alsocalling for an American ground invasion.

Paul, a libertarian-leaning Republican, says he would like totroops in Iraq and Syria fighting the Islamic radicals— just not American troops.

“I do think that to defeat ISIS, there will have to beboots on the ground,” Paul said. “But the boots on theground need to be Arab boots on the ground. And frankly, they willhave to be probably Sunni Muslim boots.”

Added Paul: “I think that while we can militarily defeatanyone in the world — we have the greatestmilitary on the planet, probably in the history of mankind— if we go over there and defeat ISIS, and thenwe attempt to occupy those Sunni Muslim cities, I think anothergeneration rises up.”

“I think really civilized Islam is going to have to be theboots on the ground,” he said. “They will have to haveMuslims defeating Muslims.”

Said Paul: “We can help, but we certainly andshouldn’t be the boots on the ground. The first war was amistake, and I oppose going back again.”

Paul is still trailing a number of his rivals nationally and inearly state polls, but expressed optimism that both front-runners,Donald Trump and Ben Carson, would fade before voters head to thepolls.

“There’s been a lot of faltering perceived orotherwise with Carson’s campaign lately,” Paul said.“And I think Trump’s schtick and humor or insults havegrown thin and, I think, aren’t really received with the samesort of enthusiasm as they once were. I think we’re in a goodposition. And we think the race is still wide open.”

Asked to describe how he views his path to victory, Paul said heneeds to bring together three voting blocs. “Combiningindependents, liberty-minded folks in the party and college kids,we think we can get to the number that necessary forvictory.”

Speaking of students, Paul said “college-aged kids, aswell as really anybody under 40, are very much against thegovernment’s program of collecting all of ourphone records.”

“So they’re for privacy and see me as a spokesmanfor their movement. College kids also don’t want to see theirfriends or buddies put in jail for a marijuana offense,” hesaid. “They also don’t want to see their friends orbuddies being sent off to another war in Iraq.”

Paul said his campaign is working to woo independents in somestates. “They are allowed to vote without changing theirregistration in Iowa and New Hampshire,” he said. “Soindependents can be a big block of voters.”

“And then finally the liberty movement,” he said.“There are a lot of liberty movement conservatives slashlibertarians, libertarians slash conservatives who are in theRepublican Party now and that’s a group that we find andbelieve to be a main backbone … of our movement.”

Paul said his operations has a “significantground game in all four of the first primaries and caucuses— Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina andNevada” but “we think caucus states are a little easierfor us since they are smaller turnout.”

Follow Alex on Twitter