Dem senator: Syria strategy 'a joke'

Greg Nash

Sen. Tim KaineTim KainePresidential election is a choice between the bully and the ballot The Hill's 12:30 Report Clinton, Kaine concerned over AT&T, Time Warner merger MORE (D-Va.) on Thursday criticized the Obama administration's handling of Syria.

“In Syria, the strategy’s a joke,” he said on “The John Fredericks Show” broadcasting from Chesapeake, Va.

“The idea that you can train 30 people and put them in a civil war featuring millions and have them be effective is highly fanciful,” said Kaine, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“You could tell they were Sisyphus trying to roll the boulder up the hill.”

The Pentagon announced on Friday that it is taking an “operational pause” on its $500 million program of training and equipping moderate Syrian rebels.

The initiative, aimed at helping combat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), had failed to get off the ground, with the U.S. struggling to get a viable force up and running.

The first group of 54 Syrian rebels disintegrated in July, and Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of U.S. Central Command, last month admitted that only "four or five" rebels from the first recruitment class remained as fighters.

Kaine has been one of the most vocal advocates in Congress for passing a new authorization of military force against ISIS, warning that it's a "dangerous thing" for lawmakers to cede their war powers to President Obama.

He said Friday that the United States shares blame with other world powers for failing to address Syria, where a long-running civil war has spurred a mass migration from the country.

“All of this is because the nations of the West haven’t come up with a real strategy about what to do with respect to Syria [and] the U.S. is right there on the fault list with everybody else,” Kaine said.

The Virginia Democrat said Russia’s escalation of its military operations in Syria last week is likely to exacerbate the bloodshed there.

“It is a catastrophe inside Russia [and] the latest Russia involvement is going to make it worse,” he said.

Kaine said a lasting peace in Syria is only possible with the expulsion of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

“We all know that there needs to be a next chapter in Syria,” he said. "There is no way that Assad can be that future leader.

“He is butchering his own people. It is the atrocities of Assad that have forced most of the refugees to leave."

Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly said his nation believes Assad is the legitimate ruler of Syria despite the many factions there.

Obama, meanwhile, has said that the Assad government should leave power.