JOHN MCCAIN MAKES SECRET TRIP TO SYRIA IN MIDST OF U.S. ASSESSMENT

SOURCE: WALL STREET JOURNAL

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) secretly traveled to northern Syria last weekend to speak with American military officials and Kurdish fighters at the forefront of the push to drive Islamic State out of their de facto capital of Raqqa, according to U.S. officials.

The unusual visit, which officials said was organized with the help of the U.S. military, came as the Trump administration is debating plans for an accelerated military campaign against Islamic State, also known by the acronyms ISIS and ISIL.

Mr. McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, first traveled to rebel-controlled Syria in 2013, when he met with leaders of the Free Syrian Army, the umbrella group supported by America and its allies. This was believed to be his first visit to Syria since then.

U.S. officials familiar with Mr. McCain’s trip said that the senator traveled to Kobani, the Syrian town on the Turkey border controlled by Kurdish forces since 2012.

In a statement, Mr. McCain’s office confirmed that a trip took place, saying the senator “traveled to northern Syria last week to visit U.S. forces deployed there and to discuss the counter-ISIL campaign and ongoing operations to retake Raqqa.”

Mr. McCain is believed to be the first U.S. lawmaker to travel to the Kurdish-controlled area of northeastern Syria since it became a hub for American special-operations forces who are aiding local forces in the fight against Islamic State.

The short visit came in the middle of a regional trip that took Mr. McCain from Saudi Arabia to Turkey, where he discussed evolving plans to counter Islamic State in the Middle East.

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