Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel last week sent a blunt memo to National Security Advisor Susan Rice criticizing the administration's strategy in Syria.
According to The New York Times
, Hagel personally wrote a two-page detailed analysis in which he asserted that the policy outlined by President Barack Obama was in danger of failing because it does not outline how the United States will manage its approach to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
One senior official told CNN
that he was "expressing concern about overall Syria strategy" and that the main message of the memo was "we need to have a sharper view of what to do about the Assad regime."
The official did not give further details about Hagel's views but did not disagree with the idea that the U.S. has much to lose in its war against the Islamic State (ISIS) if it fails to address that element of the strategy.
Hagel has so far refrained from making his concerns public. The official told CNN that Hagel continues to support the Pentagon's plan to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels.
Earlier this month, Arizona Sen. John McCain and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said in a joint editorial
that Obama's current strategy will not be capable of eradicating ISIS unless Assad is overthrown.
"Mr. Assad all but created Islamic State through his slaughter of nearly 200,000 Syrians, and he has knowingly allowed the group to grow and operate with impunity inside the country when it suits his purposes. Until we confront this reality, we can continue to degrade Islamic State in Syria, but Mr. Assad's barbarism will continue to empower it," they wrote in The Wall Street Journal.
McCain and Graham also said that it's implausible to arm and train 5,000 Syrians to fight against ISIS while at the same time neglecting to protect them from Assad's airstrikes.
"Our efforts to buildup a viable Free Syrian Army to liberate Syria from the evils of the Islamic State and Mr. Assad will surely fail if the Syrian ruler is not dealt with. To expect Mr. Assad to sit on the sidelines as the Free Syrian Army gains capacity would be a colossal mistake and doom efforts to stop Syria from sinking further into the abyss," they said.
has subsequently gone further, warning that the airstrikes against ISIS were enabling Assad, who has "intensified his strikes against the Free Syrian Army."
From the start, Obama's strategy in Syria
received criticism from Republicans for its lack of specificity. Democrats also signaled their concern that it was not detailed enough to get a clear view of whether it would be sufficient to meet the administration's goal of "degrading and destroying" the militant group.
The most recent criticism came this week from Louisiana GOP Sen. David Vitter
who characterized the American-led airstrikes against ISIS as "largely window dressing."
"I don't think we have a comprehensive approach, a comprehensive strategy," Vitter told Fox News Channel's "Sunday Morning Futures."
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