President Trump downplayed the U.S. interest in Syria's nearly seven-year civil war Thursday, saying at a press conference with Kuwait's leader that "we have very little to do with Syria other than killing ISIS."
Trump campaigned for president criticizing the Obama administration's pursuit of regime change in Syria and in July said on Twitter he ended "massive, dangerous, and wasteful payments to Syrian rebels." That effort reportedly cost the U.S. $1 billion.
"As far as Syria is concerned, we have very little to do with Syria other than killing ISIS," Trump said Thursday. "What we do is we kill ISIS, and we have succeeded in that respect. We have done better in eight months of my presidency in the previous eight years against ISIS. So ISIS is rapidly disappearing as you know, and that's because of our great military."
Trump was responding to a question about a U.N. report this week alleging that Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad's government had used chemical weapons 27 times during the civil war, including using sarin in an April 4 attack on the rebel-held town Khan Shaykhun that killed more than 80 people.
"I find it hard to believe that after what we did the last time that Assad would do it again," Trump said. "But nothing would change, we would be extremely upset if he was using chemical weapons."
The April incident tested Trump's campaign-trail advocacy of relative non-intervention, and he ordered the bombardment of a Syrian airbase with 59 Tomahawk missiles in response — ignoring the Assad's government claim the gas incident was the result of bombing a rebel arms depot.
Many more U.S. troops have been deployed in Syria under Trump to help combat ISIS. The U.S. military also began attacking Syrian government troops in response to clashes with U.S.-assisted Kurdish militia or Arab rebels attempting to fight ISIS.