Trump: Islamic State Defeat Remains Primary Focus

Defeating the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) remains the United States’ primary goal in Syria, not toppling the country’s dictator Bashar al-Assad, according to high-ranking officials in President Donald Trump’s administration.

Trump’s United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley suggested that U.S.-backed regime change in Syria is likely.

“Regime change is something that we think is going to happen, because all of the parties are going to see that Assad’s not the leader that needs to be taking place for Syria,” Haley told CNN.

Some analysts and American lawmakers accused the Trump administration of sending mixed messages on its Syria policy, noting that while Haley indicated that getting rid of Assad is the administration’s priority, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson maintained that the U.S. is focused on defeating ISIS.

In separate interviews on Sunday, Tillerson and Trump’s national security adviser H.R. McMaster noted that the administration’s decision to bomb Assad last week is not a sign that America has shifted its primary focus from defeating ISIS to pushing the Syrian dictator from power.

“Our priority is first the defeat of ISIS,” Tillerson told George Stephanopoulos, host of ABC News’s This Week on Sunday. “Once we can eliminate the battle against ISIS, conclude that—and it is going quite well—then we hope to turn our attention to cease-fire agreements between the regime and opposition forces.”

Lt. Gen. McMaster agreed that defeating ISIS must come “first,” adding, “Then also, it has to be a significant change in the nature of the Assad regime and its behavior in particular.”

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