Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders said the U.S., in concert with European allies and Russia, should provide air power, materiel and equipment to Arab countries fighting Islamic State in the Middle East but not put American troops on the ground.
Sanders, who is vying with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the Democrat Party nomination, offered his remarks Monday during an hour-long town hall on Fox News. The event featured Sanders in the first half hour and Clinton in the second.
Responding to an audience member's question on how he would deal with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, Sanders first quoted, as he has in the past, Jordanian King Abdullah in describing ISIS as "a war for the soul of Islam."
Abdullah, he said, makes the case that Muslim countries have to destroy ISIS.
"I agree with that," Sanders said. "I will do everything I can to keep American troops out of perpetual war in the Middle East. But I do believe a coalition of the major countries on the Earth -- the U.S., the U.K., France, Russia -- I believe we should support the Muslim troops on the ground with air attacks, with military equipment and all the help we can provide.
"But it should not be our troops on the ground for many, many reasons," he said.
In her remarks, Clinton also said the U.S. should lead a coalition against ISIS, though she did not name any particular country. The U.S. currently heads up a coalition of dozens of nations, including European allies, in support of rebels trying to oust Syrian President Bashir al-Assad. Russia is also conducting airstrikes in Syria, but not as a coalition partner. It supports the regime of al-Assad.
During a discussion of Libya, where ISIS is also making inroads, Clinton rejected the idea of putting ground troops there.
"Not U.S. combat troops," she said.
But she suggested she would follow the strategy underway in Syria and Iraq, where the U.S. is "using Special Forces, using airstrikes to go after ISIS leaders."
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