WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican Jeb Bush, calling President Barack Obama’s handling of the Islamic State a failure, said the United States should embed some U.S. troops with Iraqi forces to train them and identify targets.
The expected Republican presidential candidate, in an interview to be aired Sunday on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” said he was not calling for U.S. combat forces to be deployed in Iraq, in what would be a return to the war policy run by his brother, former President George W. Bush.
But Jeb Bush said there are steps the United States can take to counter Islamic State’s rise in the region. Obama has largely relied on U.S. air strikes to attack Islamic State targets in a policy that has had some successes but has not stopped the militants.
Bush’s thinking about Iraq is significant since earlier this month when he was embroiled in a controversy over whether he would have launched the Iraq war in 2003 “given what we know now.” Bush said he would have done so but later disavowed the comment, saying he had misinterpreted the question.
Bush, expected to announce a run for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination in coming weeks, said the United States needs to coordinate closely with the Iraqi government and military.
“We need to embed American troops, as we’ve done successfully in the past, to help train them, to identify targets, to do what we do really well,” he said.
He said the United States also should arm the Iraqi Kurds fighting Islamic State militants.
“We don’t have a strategy right now,” Bush said. “We have a series of tactics, reacting to whatever’s going on on the ground. That doesn’t mean we have to have combat troops in harm’s way. But I think ... in concert with other countries, and certainly in an effort to try to restrict Iranian influence in Iraq, that we can play a constructive role.”
Bush’s ideas on how to shake up the battle against Islamic State is in line with that of other hawkish Republicans, who say U.S. forces would be useful in identifying targets without putting them on the front line.
Bush agreed with Obama administration critics who say the president, who leaves office in January 2017, is leaving the Iraq problem to the next president.
“It looks that way because you don’t have a clear strategy,” he said.
Reporting By Steve Holland; editing by Ralph Boulton