Republican presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio on Sunday was calling for more ground forces in Syria, pressing the hawkish foreign policy for dismantling the Islamic State terror group that also has helped him rise in popularity polls.
The Florida lawmaker told “Fox News Sunday” the strategy to defeat ISIS, which has claimed responsibility for the deadly Paris attacks, is to have a ground force of mostly Arab Sunnis with some American “special operators.”
“It’s the only way to do it,” he said.
Rubio is currently in second place in New Hampshire and in third place in Iowa, according to a Fox News poll released Sunday morning.
He also now has 14 percent of the vote, up 3 percentage points, compared to a Fox News poll released in early November, before the most recent GOP debate and the Paris terror attacks,which left at least 129 people dead and hundreds injured.
Rubio suggested Sunday that U.S. Special Forces should be embedded with the Arab-Sunni troops. He said he does not support a strategy of airstrikes-only against the Islamic State in Syria and also does not agree with the efforts against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, suggesting the strikes are just “symbolic military acts.”
Rubio also backed the bill passed Thursday by the GOP-led House that would increase the vetting for refugees from Syria’s 4-year-long civil war, calling it an “appropriate response.”
“My argument is we cannot let anyone is this country that we cannot vet,” he said.
Rubio argued the existing vetting process appears adequate, but the problem is that officials don’t have a good database on applicants from which to work.
“It’s not that the vetting isn’t happening,” he said. “It’s that the vetting does have the reliable data.”
Rubio also downplayed the notion that the focus of the 2016 White House race moving to national security has worked to his advantage, arguing the issue is much larger than the race.
“National security is the most important thing the president will do,” he said. “The world has become a very dangerous place.”