Graham wants U.S. ground troops in Syria Says coalition with 10,000 Americans will be needed to defeat Islamic State


COLUMBIA — South Carolina’s Sen. Lindsey Graham called Sunday for boots on the ground, including those of American soldiers, to take back territory in Syria from, and successfully destroy, the Islamic State group.

Graham appeared on CBS’ Face The Nation, where he told substitute anchor Norah O’Donnell that President Barack Obama had the right goal to destroy and degrade IS, but didn’t have the right strategy.

Graham, who serves on the Armed Services Committee, said a regional force was needed with an “American component” of about 10,000 American soldiers to take back territory from IS.

“Syria and Iraq combined are the best platform to launch an attack on the United States I’ve seen since 9-11,” Graham said. “You’ll see a Paris on steroids here pretty soon if you don’t disrupt this organization and take the fight to them on the ground.”

The “Paris on steroids” comment is a reference to the January attack on the French satirical weekly magazine Charlie Hebdo, where two Islamist terrorists killed 11 staffers, later a police officer, and injured another 11 people.

Graham also discussed his potential presidential run with O’Donnell, saying that he has successfully won office in the red state of South Carolina, and believes he is the “best qualified of anybody on our side of the aisle to offer an alternative to a failed foreign policy of Barack Obama.”

“We will never have peace with radical Islam, but we can have security,” Graham said.

Graham added that if he became president, he would nominate U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy of Upstate South Carolina for the Supreme Court. Gowdy is a former state solicitor and federal prosecutor.

But a run for the White House is looking crowded, despite Mitt Romney’s decision to not run again. The Post and Courier named 15 GOP presidential hopefuls in a Sunday story, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Following Graham’s appearance, former Secretary of State James Baker told O’Donnell he believed Bush is an “extraordinarily qualified person” to be president. Baker helped both former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush run for office.

Like Graham, Jeb Bush is exploring the possibility of a presidential run. Baker and many political media outlets have named the younger Bush as the GOP frontrunner for 2016.

“Jeb has solid credentials,” Baker said. “I expect him to get the Republican nomination.”

Reach Cynthia Roldan at 708-5891.