Washington (CNN)Donald Trump wants to flip the U.S. strategy against ISIS on its head, drawing down the America’s involvement in fighting the militant group in Syria in favor of a greater Russian presence.
While most of his fellow Republican presidential hopefuls are calling for a bigger military effort to destroy the group, Trump said the U.S. should reduce its already small footprint in Syria. And in Iraq, Trump said he would be willing to send round forces to fight the radical militant group.
“Now let me just say this: ISIS in Syria, (Syrian President Bashar el) Assad in Syria, Assad and ISIS are mortal enemies. We go in to fight ISIS. Why aren’t we letting ISIS go and fight Assad and then we pick up the remnants?” Trump said in a “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday on CBS.
Alternatively, the GOP front-runner said the U.S. should let Russia take the lead in battling ISIS in Syria, where the Russian government is allied with the Assad regime.
“Russia wants to get rid of ISIS. We want to get rid of ISIS. Maybe let Russia do it. Let them get rid of ISIS. What the hell do we care?” Trump said.
Russia has recently beefed up its presence in Syria and is allied with the Syrian government, but has not yet shown a willingness to directly fight ISIS.
The top U.S. military brass has cautiously eyed Russia’s increased involvement in Syria — welcoming Russian efforts to help fight ISIS but cautious of Russian attempts to keep Assad’s Syrian regime in power in favor of U.S.-backed rebels.
If a Trump administration would draw down the U.S.’s presence in Syria — where the U.S. has sought to train and arm a small number of moderate rebels while also leading an international bombing campaign against ISIS — Trump as commander in chief would beef up U.S. military operations in Iraq.
“Look with ISIS in Iraq, you got to knock them out. You got to knock them out. You got to fight them. You got to fight them,” he said on “60 Minutes.”
Trump’s plans for confronting ISIS have also included bombing “the hell” out of Iraqi oil fields to keep the group from benefiting financially — a plan military experts have slammed as a foolhardy.