Retired Air Force Gen. Michael Hayden Friday praised the nation's Armed Forces for Thursday's Syrian strike and said President Donald Trump's action puts the U.S. "in a point of advantage here."
"The Armed Forces delivered to the president everything that they promised to the president," Hayden, who directed both the CIA and the NSA, told Anderson Cooper on CNN. "Now, what's the strategic effect?
"Frankly, we're actually in a point of advantage here," he continued. "The equilibrium between [President Bashar] Assad and all of his friends and his opponents was actually fairly fragile.
"Fifteen months ago, Assad was on the verge of losing. Then, the Russians intervened. They re-established equilibrium.
"Beyond reacting to an atrocity, what we demonstrated to Assad was that we have the means to destroy his battlefield leverage," Hayden said, noting that 20 airplanes were destroyed by the 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles that were fired from two Navy destroyers.
"He doesn't have that many.
"This will have a real sobering effect on adventurism from the Assad regime," Hayden said.
But, he cautioned, the United States must not lose sight of its true goal in Syria: destroying the Islamic State and radical jihadism.
"It's going to take another significant provocation for us to repeat what we did last night," he told Cooper
"As sad as this is, we have to park the Assad problem over here. Just let it sit, while we then go solve what we think is the more high-priority problem, which is ISIS.
"The strike yesterday was, in essence, our telling Assad: 'Settle down. You are not going anywhere. Now we're going to turn our attention back to problem number one, which is the Islamic State.'"
In the meantime, though, President Trump sent a clear "political message," Hayden concluded: "Frankly, I'm not the other guy," referring to former President Barack Obama.
"He was sending that to us in America, our friends in the region — and he was sending it to Syria, Russia and Iran."
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