National Security

Rubio: Even If ISIS Is Destroyed, Another Radical Group Will Just Fill Its Place Until Assad Is Gone

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Jonah Bennett Contributor

GOP Sen. [crscore]Marco Rubio[/crscore] said Tuesday at a Hudson Institute event even if Islamic State is defeated militarily, new terror groups will fill its place until Syrian President Bashar Assad is dethroned.

Speaking after his recent trip to the Middle East, Rubio said there’s no way the people of Syria will allow Assad to ever govern them again.

“Assad has his hands soaked in blood,” Rubio said. “When someone levels your city, kills your father, your mother, destroys your life—there’s no way you’ll ever be able to accept that person’s legitimacy.”

During his time in Iraq, Rubio also spoke with U.S. troops, and while he said they weren’t suffering from poor morale, the sentiment did seem to be they wished they were allowed to do more against ISIS.

Still, Rubio is convinced the U.S. is making progress in the fight.

“If you tell the U.S. military to kill ISIS fighters, they’re going to do it,” Rubio said. “If they had more assets, they would do more.”

For Rubio, the clock is ticking for ISIS. There’s nowhere left for them to go, but the central question regional powers are now considering is what happens once ISIS is taken out in Iraq and Syria.

“There’s not a lot of doubt that ISIS will be defeated militarily in the Middle East, but everyone is wondering what will happen next,” Rubio said. “What happens to Assad?”

Rubio’s answer: destroying ISIS will accomplish precisely nothing as long as Assad remains in power.

“You can wipe ISIS out and al-Nusra or some other group will rise up and take up the mantle,” Rubio said. “And that will be the case as long as Assad is in power—there will always be room for a radical group to move in and take advantage.”

Rubio argued cutting a deal with Assad is basically impossible because of the suffering the country has undergone.

The solution, according to Rubio, is what he recommended back in 2011, namely finding elements on the ground in Syria to equip, which is now admittedly a much more arduous task.

This has been the Obama administration’s strategy, although the infamous Syria train and equip program has been nothing short of a disaster. Despite $500 million allocated for the program, only four or five fighters had been trained, even though the program’s goal was 5,400 fighters for December, 2015. The program was suspended in October, 2015. The Pentagon has requested to restart the program.

“We don’t want just the exit of Assad, but the creation of a representative, transitional authority to determine the future of that country,” Rubio said.

But that transitional authority will never come about as long as Assad feels he’s winning.

Rubio noted before the Russians got engaged in the fight, Assad was losing hand over fist to ISIS and non-ISIS elements. Putin came to assist Assad in order to save access to their warm water port, as Iranian support wasn’t enough on its own.

“Assad doesn’t see that day coming. He thinks he’s going to win this thing and capture enough of that country to take him back to where he was 10 years ago.”

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