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Jim Mattis: "Our role in Syria is the defeat of ISIS"

Mattis on Capitol Hill
Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told Congress Thursday that the United States is primarily in Syria to suffocate ISIS. "Our role in Syria is the defeat of ISIS. We are not going to engage in the civil war [between Bashar al-Assad's government and forces of opposition] itself," he said, but added that "at times you are going to see contrary impulses."

The backdrop: President Trump has been foreshadowing military strikes against Syria in response to a chemical attack in the city of Douma that was allegedly carried out by Assad's government. Mattis told lawmakers, "I believe there was a chemical attack, and we’re looking for the actual evidence."