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By Saagar Enjeti
Department of Defense Secretary James Mattis arrived in Saudi Arabia Tuesday in the first of a days long trip around the region to discuss U.S. anti-ISIS strategy.
Mattis will also visit Egypt, Israel, Qatar, and Djibouti in the coming days. Mattis will use the trip as an opportunity to explain the Trump administration’s policy towards Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. The trip comes on the heels of an April 6 U.S. cruise missile strike on a Syrian airbase in retaliation for a chemical weapons attack against civilians.
Trump administration officials have stressed that the strike is not a harbinger of U.S-led regime change in Syria.
“The goal right now in Syria, and the military campaign is focused on accomplishing that, is breaking ISIS, destroying ISIS in Syria,” Mattis declared. “The rest of the campaign stays on track, exactly as it was before Assad’s violation.”
The Trump administration’s anti-ISIS plan has yet to come into focus despite pledges from President Donald Trump that a new plan would be in place within 30 days of taking office.
“The counter-ISIL plan has been put in skeleton form; it’s being fleshed out now. This has got to be done in a methodical way, where we look at each element of it,” Mattis told reporters in a press conference at the Pentagon April 11.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford has previously emphasized that Trump’s plan to defeat ISIS will be “a political military plan.”
“The grievances of the [Syrian] civil war have to be addressed, the safety and humanitarian assistance that needs to be provided to people have to be addressed, and the multiple divergent stakeholders’ views need to be addressed,” he said.