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Sen. Tammy Duckworth: 'ISIS Is Still Very Much Active In Syria'07:50
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Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., questions Andrew Wheeler as he testifies at a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing to be the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019. (Andrew Harnik/AP)
Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., questions Andrew Wheeler as he testifies at a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing to be the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2019. (Andrew Harnik/AP)
This article is more than 2 years old.

The attack at a restaurant in Syria that killed four Americans, including two service members, this week is raising questions about President Trump's plans to withdraw U.S. troops from that country. In justifying the exit, the president tweeted last month, "We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency."

But Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), who served in Iraq, says ISIS is "still very much active in Syria, despite what the president says."

"Bottom line, I was appalled," she tells Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson of the attack. "[Trump's] unilateral decision against his military commanders and his then-secretary of defense, Secretary [James Mattis] to decide to withdraw, pull U.S. troops without any type of a plan out of Syria contributed to ISIS' increased boldness."

Interview Highlights

On how long U.S. troops should stay in Syria 

"Well, I think that we need to stay until we have a plan for how we defeat ISIS and suppress them. Right now, you know, I don't know that there's a timeline. I think what needs to be done is we need to look at a conditions-based exit. I've never supported putting U.S. troops there in the first place without an authorized use of military force a vote in the Senate, and that's something that needs to be done.

"But now that they are there, we can't just pull out and abandon our allies who are in the region, especially the Kurds, who are going to be the target of attack, not just from the Syrian government but also from Turkey as well. So whatever we do, we need to have an actual plan whether it is a milestone-based timeline base or something a combination there of so that we leave in a way that does not put our allies at greater risk, does not put U.S. troops at greater risk. It does not allow ISIS to regain a foothold in the region."

On the pattern of U.S. troop withdrawals empowering terrorist groups 

"One of the things that we do need to do is we do need to make sure that we prepare our allies who must remain in the region, such as the Kurdish troops, to continue the fight and continue to hold the peace. And we need to get into place a real system of local governance that would deny ISIS the ability to grow in the region, and that's happening in some parts of Syria. I can't really go into greater detail. There are classified briefings, but there are some parts of Syria where with U.S. support local government has come in that's denying ISIS the ability to regain its foothold. But you know, they've just moved into other areas and where the attack happened just two days ago is where ISIS has never been completely defeated. And we need to focus on putting some resources behind that region whether with U.S. troops or with our allies."


Jill Ryan produced this interview, and edited it for broadcast with Todd Mundt. Samantha Raphelson adapted it for the web.

This segment aired on January 18, 2019.

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Jeremy Hobson Twitter Former Co-Host, Here & Now
Before coming to WBUR to co-host Here & Now, Jeremy Hobson hosted the Marketplace Morning Report, a daily business news program with an audience of more than six million.

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