Written by Connor O’brien
Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain slammed the Trump administration Thursday over reports it decided to end a CIA program to arm and train anti-Assad rebels in Syria.
The Arizona Republican, who announced Wednesday he was diagnosed with brain cancer and has been away from the Senate this week, called the move a giveaway to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has backed the regime of President Bashar Assad in the country’s civil war.
“If these reports are true, the administration is playing right into the hands of Vladimir Putin,” McCain said in a statement. “Making any concession to Russia, absent a broader strategy for Syria, is irresponsible and short-sighted.”
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Trump had decided to end the covert program to train and equip moderate anti-Assad rebels in Syria. The move has been sought by Russia, which intervened militarily in the conflict on Assad’s behalf in 2015.
The program run by the CIA is separate from a Pentagon one to train and equip Syrian rebels to help fight the Islamic State terrorist group in Iraq and Syria. That effort required a reboot last year after failing to field more than a handful of fighters.
McCain, who has long advocated for greater U.S. involvement in the Syrian conflict and for Assad’s departure from government, criticized the administration for failing to outline a broader strategy beyond the defeat of the Islamic State. He argued removing Assad from power should be a “key pillar” of the strategy for Syria.
“The administration has yet to articulate its vision for Syria beyond the defeat of ISIL, let alone a comprehensive approach to the Middle East,” he said Thursday.
McCain also again hit the Trump White House for not producing a strategy to break the military deadlock in Afghanistan between government forces and the Taliban there.
“Six months into this administration, there is still no new strategy for victory in Afghanistan either,” he said. “It is now mid-July, when the administration promised to deliver that strategy to Congress, and we are still waiting.”
Source : Politico