State: Assad must go for ISIS to be defeated

State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said on Friday that the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) cannot be defeated as long as Syrian President Bashar Assad remains in power. 

In an interview on MSNBC, Harf was asked if the administration agreed with the emir of Qatar who said that the fight against ISIS would fail if the regime in Damascus kept their grip on the country.

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“We do," Harf replied. "And I think you heard the president reiterate this week that as Bashar al-Assad has lost all legitimacy to lead his people that the answer to fighting ISIS is not the Assad regime.

“The best thing that the Syrian people can have going forward is not ISIS, it's not the Assad regime, but it's a new transitional government that leads them to a better future and ends this horrible bloodshed we've seen over the last three years," she continued.

Harf’s comments come amid concern from some lawmakers that the airstrikes in Syria from U.S. and Arab partners against ISIS militants and an al Qaeda offshoot, the Khorasan group, could inadvertently help Assad stay in power.

Assad has been fighting those groups as well as more pro-Western militants in a three-year civil war. So far, the U.S. and allies have not taken any military action against Assad’s forces.

Officials have said that the U.S. faces a long fight against ISIS and insisted that Assad should step down.

Secretary of State John Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this month that ISIS could be defeated before Assad leaves. But he added that rebel groups receiving U.S. arms and training to fight ISIS could then take on the Assad regime.

“And if ISIL is defeated, [the rebels] are going to be taking that experience in the same direction that they originally set out to, which is to deal with Assad,” he said, using an alternate name for the terror group.

It has been the official position of the Obama administration that Assad must go since 2011. 

President Obama mentioned Assad in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly this week. 

"Together with our partners, America is training and equipping the Syrian opposition to be a counterweight to the terrorists of ISIL and the brutality of the Assad regime," Obama said. "But the only lasting solution to Syria’s civil war is political — an inclusive political transition that responds to the legitimate aspirations of all Syrian citizens, regardless of ethnicity, regardless of creed.

"Cynics may argue that such an outcome can never come to pass,” he continued. “But there is no other way for this madness to end — whether one year from now or ten."