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WASHINGTON — A powerful US senator is pushing President Barack Obama to put more American boots on the ground in Iraq and Syria.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., says "it is obvious that President Obama currently has no coherent strategy to achieve his stated goal to 'degrade and ultimately destroy' [the Islamic State]."

Part of any such plan, McCain said in a statement Monday, should recognize that "American boots on the ground are necessary to defeat [the group] in Iraq and Syria."

Specifically, McCain wants to embed more US special operations forces as advisers with US allies on the ground.

The hawkish 2008 GOP presidential nominee also wants Obama to adopt an unambiguous stance against Assad's rule, referring to embattled Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.

McCain also repeated his support for a no-fly zone to shield civilians, provide cover to US allies fighting Assad and the Islamic State, and "moving quickly to provide robust support to moderate units of the Free Syrian Army."

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"Until such actions are taken, [Islamic State] will continue to grow and pose an even greater danger to our national security interests," said McCain, who issued a very similar call Sunday on "Face the Nation."

Obama, during his annual State of the Union address last Tuesday, said "American leadership – including our military power – is stopping [Islamic State's] advance."

While Republicans like McCain are increasingly saying only American military power can beat back the violent Sunni group, Obama touts the coalition he has built, which includes several Arab nations performing actions such as air strikes on IS group targets.

"Instead of getting dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, we are leading a broad coalition, including Arab nations, to degrade and ultimately destroy this terrorist group," Obama said.

"We're also supporting a moderate opposition in Syria that can help us in this effort, and assisting people everywhere who stand up to the bankrupt ideology of violent extremism," he said. "This effort will take time. It will require focus. But we will succeed."

email: jbennett@defensenews.com

Twitter: @bennettjohnt

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