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By Jonah Bennett
White House Homeland Security Adviser Thomas Bossert said Thursday morning that the United States, contrary to many reports, would still like to see Syrian President Bashar al-Assad removed.
During an interview at the Aspen Security Forum, Bossert stated that even though removing Assad is not necessarily the U.S.’s first priority, it nevertheless remains a desired outcome.
“I don’t think it’s important for us to say that Assad must go first, but I think it’s absolutely imperative for me to correct the record and suggest that the United States still would like to see Assad go at some point,” Bossert said in response to a question from David Sanger, chief Washington correspondent for The New York Times.
“And I think we’ve made it clear to our partners and to the Russians and to the regime itself that that would be our desired outcome,” Bossert added. “But we need a political outcome in Syria, we don’t need a militarily-imposed outcome with no political strategy to fill in that void when we’re gone. And we need to figure out how we’re going to rebuild Syria after that and I think it’s pretty clear to the world that Assad still in control is not going to be the best future case outcome for a peaceable, politically resolved Syria, and so whether it comes first, second, or soon thereafter, it would be a nice outcome.”
Bossert’s comments follow a previous statement from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who in April said in the aftermath of the chemical weapons attack in Syria, which U.S. intelligence believes the Syrian regime executed, that there is likely no future role in the country for Assad.
“Assad’s role in the future is uncertain, clearly, and with the acts that he has taken, it would seem that there would be no role for him to govern the Syrian people,” Tillerson stated.
But Tillerson emphasized that before Assad is removed, the U.S.-led coalition must fully defeat the Islamic State and stabilize Syria. Once those two objectives are accomplished, Tillerson intends to work with other partners to ensure Assad leaves power.
Prior to the chemical weapons attack, Tillerson stated that it’s up to the Syrian people if they’d like Assad to stay.
Several days after Tillerson’s delivered his comments, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said that one of the Trump administration’s goals in Syria is to see Assad removed from power with cooperation not only from other U.S. allies, but also from Russia and Iran.