McCain makes surprise visit to Syria to discuss ISIS with U.S. troops

Senator John McCain

Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) traveled unannounced into northern Syria last week to meet with U.S. forces stationed there, his office said on Wednesday.

McCain, who is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, made the trip to in an effort to re-evaluate the U.S. approach and plan to defeat the Islamic State in Syria — ISIS.

“Senator McCain’s visit was a valuable opportunity to assess dynamic conditions on the ground in Syria and Iraq,” the statement reads. It says the president “has rightly ordered a review of U.S. strategy and plans to defeat” the Islamic State group and McCain looks forward to working with the administration and military leaders “to optimize our approach.”

The trip, which is considered official travel, was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

The Senator met with U.S. troops and Kurdish fighters amid their longstanding battle U.S.-coalition forces prepare for a major battled to oust militants from ISIS’ de facto capital of Raqqa.

U.S. officials familiar with the visit told the Wall Street Journal that McCain traveled to Kobani, which sits along the Syria-Turkey border and has been controlled by Kurdish forces since 2012. The trip, which was coordinated through the US military, comes as President Trump and leaders construct plans for an increased military campaign against ISIS. President Trump had previously asked the U.S. military to present him with a new plan to destroy ISIS. The president expects the report by the end of the month.

The senator has been a consistent proponent of increased military action in Syria, both against Assad’s forces as well as ISIS. He was very critical of the Obama administration’s decision not to launch airstrikes against Assad’s forces after it came to light that the Syrian president had reportedly used chemical weapons against Syrian rebels.

It’s also being widely reported that McCain is also a staunch critic to President Trump’s foreign policy.

During a speech Friday at the Munich Security Conference, McCain delivered a contemptuous analysis of Trump’s policies as he described a shift in the U.S. and Europe away from the “universal values” that forged the Western alliance 70 years ago.

However, McCain agreed with Trump’s order to review the country’s military “strategy and plans to defeat ISIL,” according to the statement provided Wednesday by his office. “Senator McCain looks forward to working with the administration and military leaders to optimize our approach for accomplishing ISIL’s lasting defeat.”

In 2013, McCain made another trip to Syria, where he met with leaders of the Free Syrian Army, trying to oust Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces.

Lawmakers have accused the Assad regime of war crimes and make claims of genocide as the number of people killed during the violence in Syria continues to mount. The six-year war is responsible for hundreds of thousands of people dead and directly contributed to Europe’s worst refugee crisis since World War II. Analysts and lawmakers alike say President Obama’s unwillingness to enforce his “red line” created an environment that gave the Islamic State group room to grow into a powerful, global terror threat.

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  • Jim Verchio is a staff writer for Popular Military. As a retired Air Force Public Affairs craftsman, Jim has served at all levels. From staff writer to Editor-In-Chief, he has more than 30 years experience covering military topics in print and broadcast from the CONUS to Afghanistan. He is also a two time recipient of the DoD’s prestigious Thomas Jefferson Award for journalism excellence.

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