Politics & Government

Florida’s Rubio, Nelson: Fight against Islamic State will be long, difficult

Responding to President Barack Obama’s Wednesday night speech laying out his strategy for a broader military campaign against the Islamic State, Florida’s two U.S. senators cautioned that the effort could be long and difficult.

Marco Rubio, the Republican from Miami and a potential presidential candidate in 2016, popped up on news shows early Thursday, cautioning that – despite the best intentions of American military leaders – troops on the ground might ultimately be necessary.

“I hope it does not” require ground troops, he said on CNN, “but it may very well require, at some point, the engagement of, at a minimum, special operations forces and potentially ground troops.”

While he said, “I don’t think that’s something we need to do right away,” he added, “We need to be honest with the American people. It could require that.”

The conflict is with the Islamic State, variously known as ISIS or ISIL, the group responsible for the beheadings of two American journalists and a broad campaign of violence within Iraq and Syria.

In a prepared statement, Rubio elaborated, saying the president “is in a much better place than where he was a few weeks ago, when he was downplaying ISIL’s capabilities to threaten America’s security and the moderate Syrian rebels’ ability to fight the radical Islamists.”

That said, he worried Obama was still underplaying the reality of the situation.

“I remain concerned by his unwillingness to prepare the American people for what will likely be a long, difficult struggle,” he said. “As this debate moves forward, I hope the president will step up and make his case to the American people that we will do whatever it takes, however long it takes, to defeat ISIL and protect the American people.”

Sen. Bill Nelson, the Democrat from Orlando, also talked about the difficult road ahead: "This group will be degraded and defeated, but it’s going to be a long-term deal,” he said in a prepared statement. “It’s going to be probably years. The United States is putting together the coalition that will go after them. The U.S. will probably put boots on the ground, but it will be more commando raids and forward air observers with others to do the actual strikes on the ground. But we have no choice. This is a vicious, diabolical group that must be stopped.”