Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday deflected when asked whether there was a broader strategy behind President Donald Trump’s actions in the ongoing conflict in Syria, saying Trump “makes decisions and then absorbs data and facts.”
“Is there any reason to believe that there’s a strategy beyond what we see here in terms of hitting back at Turkey?” Fox Business host Maria Bartiromo asked Pompeo, saying later: “Is there any reason to believe the President would … leave these couple thousand troops on the ground (in Syria)?”
“My experience with the President is that he makes decisions and then absorbs data and facts, evaluates situations, if we need to adjust our policy to achieve our goals,” Pompeo replied.
“The President (is) always very focused on what’s the objective, what is it that we’re really, truly trying to achieve. If we conclude that we need to adjust our policy to achieve those goals, I’m confident that the team will make that recommendation that the President will move in that direction if he concludes that it’s the right thing to do to make sure that we protect America,” the secretary added.
The comments from Pompeo came just before he is due to leave for Turkey with Vice President Mike Pence, where the two are expected to meet with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to discuss the situation in Syria. Last week, Turkey’s military began an offensive after Trump announced his decision to pull troops out of northeastern Syria. The pullback is widely seen as giving Erdogan room to act on his long-held goal of attacking the Kurds who fought with the US against ISIS.
The US officials are hoping to broker a ceasefire with Erdogan, though Trump, speaking at the White House on Wednesday, appeared to undermine the trip’s purpose, saying that the US “shouldn’t be losing lives” in the conflict between Turkey and Syria because “it’s not our border.”