If North Carolina House Speaker Thom Tillis becomes a US senator, add him to the list of Republicans who believe more American troops are needed on the ground in Iraq.
Tillis joined the boots-but-not-combat-boots advocates Tuesday during a campaign stop at a NASCAR team facility near Charlotte with two of the groups leaders: GOP Senate Armed Services Committee members Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
McCain told reporters up to 10,000 American advisers, special forces troopers and supporting forces will be needed to defeat the Islamic State, The Charlotte Observer reported.
“[Islamic State] is winning,” McCain said. “We’re losing.”
When Tillis was asked if he agrees with the could-be SASC chairman, the candidate said: “We’ve got to have American expertise in advisory positions to make sure they do it right, and to make sure that once we secure the ground again, we keep it.
“What Sen. [McCain] is talking about is not having people at the front lines,” Tillis said. “I think we’ve got the expectation that we’re going to have partners in the Middle East and others.”
Tillis is locked in a tight race with incumbent SASC member Sen. Kay Hagan, D-N.C.
RealClearPolitics’ average of a handful of polls puts Hagan up by just a single percentage point. Of those polls, Hagan has a slim lead in two, the duo is tied in a pair and Tillis leads by a point in the fifth.
So is the Islamic State really winning?
One influential Washington analyst seems to agree with McCain.
“So far, the air campaign has been minimal by any recent historical standard, and so limited that it is hard to see how it can be effective in either protecting Iraq from further gains, critically degrading the Islamic state in Syria, or providing humanitarian relief to threatened minorities like the Kurds,” Anthony Cordesman, an adviser to the Pentagon and other national security entities, wrote in a report released Wednesday.
“The US has certainly tried to limit its targeting and the size of its air strikes, but so far has not demonstrated that the current level of air and cruise missile strikes has halted Islamic State gains against the Kurds in Syria or in Anbar in Iraq,” Cordesman writes in the Center for Strategic and International Studies report.