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Candidates Weigh In On Necessity Of Military Strikes


Montana's candidates for federal office are weighing in on President Obama's intent to unleash military strikes on the so-called "Islamic State" extremist organizations.

Obama last week announced his counter-terrorism campaign to use intel, training and airstrikes to weaken and destroy Islamic radical groups know by the acronyms ISIS and ISIL.

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate, Amanda Curtis, says there's no doubt the radical jihadi movement in Iraq and Syria is terrible and needs to be dealt with; but Curtis says she wants a well-defined mission in place prior to any military action:

"We make sure we provide our men and women with the tools and equipment to get the job done properly and that we have an exist strategy to get them home as soon as possible. And by that, I mean like, yesterday."

Flag of the Islamic State

Curtis says she doesn't think Obama needs congressional authorization to implement his plan. Some critics wonder why the President is planning military strikes when ISIS hasn't directly attacked the United States. Curtis says Senator John Walsh - a veteran who led over 700 troops in Iraq from 2004 to 2005 - has convinced her that these radicals present a clear threat:

"...and that some of the folks who are working with ISIS have the ability to enter into the United States and have made repeated threats that they will continue to kill Americans. I really trust Senator Walsh's judgment on this and I think he knows what he's talking about."

Curtis's opponent in the Senate race, Representative Steve Daines, wasn't available for an interview, but issued this statement last week:

"Our foreign policy is unraveling. Any strategy must have a clear objective and all necessary authorizations from Congress. It must confront Islamic extremism comprehensively, without placing new troops on the ground."

Democratic U.S. House candidate John Lewis says there's no doubt that Iraq and Syria have become breeding grounds for radicals:

"I believe Congress has a responsibility to debate this issue. It's in the constitution. Talking to Montanans, I get they sense (they're) very wary of us getting embroiled in another international conflict with no end in site. What's the endgame?"

Lewis also wonders about the expense of this proposed mission:

"I believe that since we've been at war since 2001, one of the big reasons we find ourselves in the fiscal situation that we do with the deficit, is because we've been at war. These wars aren't paid for. That adds to the deficit."

Lewis' Republican opponent, Ryan Zinke, sees it differently. Zinke, a former SEAL Team 6 commander, says he'd rather "Fight ISIS in the deserts of Iraq than the streets of America."

"And while I applaud the President's willingness to do something, airstrikes alone will not remove ISIS from the field. In my opinion, we need to support the Kurds - probably directly - and not through a centralized government that's notoriously ineffective, corrupt and not capable."

Zinke says he wishes the President wouldn't have publicly ruled out troops on the ground. He says that not only broadcasts our battle plan, but isn't necessarily the best military strategy.

"We may need to put our troops on the ground to provide some blocking forces to supplement our air power. And to think that you're going to control ground with air is also naive. You can't control ground unless you have someone on the corner...a boot on the ground."

House Republicans are proposing to authorize a mission to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels with an explicit ban on deploying U.S. ground forces to fight the Islamic State group.

The language will likely be included as an amendment to a spending bill this week to keep the government open. Democrats are reviewing the proposal.


Edward O'Brien is Montana Public Radio's Associate News Director.
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