Ryan Doesn’t Rule Out Troops in Syria to Fight Islamic State

  • House speaker says jihadist group can’t be allowed safe havens
  • Says rollout of Trump travel order could have been better

Paul Ryan in an interview in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 3.

Photographer: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images

House Speaker Paul Ryan suggested in an interview broadcast Sunday that he would support using U.S. ground troops in Syria if it were part of a comprehensive plan to defeat the Islamic State that’s due from the Pentagon later this month.

“It’s in our vital national security interest. We must destroy ISIS in Syria,” Ryan said on NBC News’ “Meet the Press,” using an acronym for the jihadist group.

The Wisconsin Republican was asked whether he’d be “reluctantly comfortable” sending U.S. soldiers into the conflict, which the United Nations estimates has cost the lives of 400,000 Syrians. “I’ve spent a lot of time on this issue,” Ryan said. “We cannot afford to allow ISIS to continue to enjoy safe havens to recruit.”

The interview was taped before a federal judge late Friday stayed the order halting U.S. entry by individuals from seven Muslim-majority countries including Syria.

Ryan, who has had a bumpy history with Trump, reiterated his support for the rationale behind the order while criticizing the process. “The rollout clearly could have been done better. The communication could have been done more clearly,” Ryan said.

The Trump White House cast the order as part of a broad effort to combat terrorism by giving immigration officials time to review entry criteria for all individuals from the countries.

The president separately directed Defense Secretary James Mattis to draft a strategy for destroying the Islamic State, which terrorism experts say will likely focus more effort on the group’s strongholds in Syria.

Trump boasted during the campaign that he knew more about Islamic State than the current military generals, but emphasized the ability to destroy the group’s support network from the air.

“I would just bomb those suckers,” Trump said at one event in Iowa in 2015.

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