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Both Guthrie and Leach Hope U.S. Can Avoid Sending More Ground Forces to Fight ISIL

Kevin Willis

Kentucky’s Second District Congressman says his vote in favor of the President’s plan to train moderate Syrian rebels was based largely on his desire to keep U.S. ground forces out of the effort. 

Bowling Green Republican Brett Guthrie told WKU Public Radio he wants to see ground forces from Middle Eastern countries taking on the Islamic State, also known as ISIL.

While Guthrie says he understands the reluctance of some lawmakers who voted against the measure that ultimately passed the House Wednesday, he believes it’s in the country’s interests to help those fighting the Islamic State.

“If we don’t engage them in Syria, then that will become a safe haven. It’s like the Vietnam War and Cambodia, when every time we would push (the VietCong soldiers), they would cross back into an international border that we were not allowed to cross. So if they have a safe haven, they can retreat, they can wait, and they can come back.”

Kentucky’s U.S. House delegation split 4-2 in support of the President’s proposal, with Republicans Hal Rogers and Andy Barr joining Guthrie and Democrat John Yarmuth in voting in favor of the measure.

Republicans Ed Whitfield and Thomas Massie voted against it.

Credit Ron Leach campaign
Democrat Ron Leach, candidate for Kentucky's Second District U.S. House seat

Ron Leach, the Democrat challenging Guthrie for the Second District U.S. House seat, says he doesn’t want to see any further American ground troops involved in the region.

“We currently have folks on the ground like our special operations forces, the trainers, folks helping with logistics. But a large number of U.S. conventional forces—I would be hesitant to support that,” Leach said.

Leach is a retired U.S. Army major who served four combat deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan.  

He says the Islamic State is a product of America’s invasion and occupation of Iraq, and the chaos and lack of central government control that followed the toppling of Saddam Hussein. Leach also says the emergence of ISIL is a result of the free world’s failure to adequately support secular, liberal Syrian fighters early on in their efforts to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Possible to Win "War on Terrorism"?

WKU Public Radio asked both Guthrie and Leach if they think the U.S. is capable of winning what’s been described as a war against terrorism and extremist Islamic ideology. Leach said while it’s possible to win a war against a nation-state, it’s not possible to win a war against an ideology or tactic.

“You don’t win a win a war on terrorism. You hopefully push forward to a world where there aren’t these vacuums of power that encourage the growth of these radical organizations.”

Guthrie said the U.S. can beat back extremist threats posed by groups like the Islamic State by denying them the ability to take over states like Syria and Iraq.

“We’ve always got to be vigilant. I wish there was an easy answer—to say that we go take out ISIL and (the threat) goes away. But it doesn’t. And that’s why we always have to maintain a strong military, and we have to maintain strong coalitions with wiling partners."

Both Guthrie and Leach said they are in favor of equipping Syrian, Iraqi, and Kurdish soldiers to battle the Islamic State, in hopes that such a move would preclude any further involvement by U.S. military ground forces in the region.

Kevin is the News Director at WKU Public Radio. He has been with the station since 1999, and was previously the Assistant News Director, and also served as local host of Morning Edition.
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