NSA McMaster: Donald Trump Will Pursue Twin Goals of Removing Assad and Defeating ISIS

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National Security Adviser Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster. He told Fox News the Trump administration would look to remove Assad as well as fight Isis Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

President Donald Trump plans to remove Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad from power as well as driving the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) from Syria, according to Trump's national security adviser Herbert McMaster.

In his first televised interview, McMaster told Fox News the Trump administration had the “simultaneous” goals of fighting the militant group and ousting the Assad regime in the wake of a chemical attack on April 4 that killed more than 80 people in the town of Khan Sheikhoun.

"It's very difficult to understand how a political solution could result from the continuation of the Assad regime," the U.S. Army lieutenant general said. "Now, we are not saying that we are the ones who are going to effect that change. What we are saying is, other countries have to ask themselves some hard questions.

Read more: Will new national security adviser McMaster clash with Trump on Russia?  

"Russia should ask themselves, 'Why are we supporting this murderous regime that is committing mass murder of its own population?'"

McMaster implied the U.S. would look for regime change through a coalition of allies including Russia, currently the principal backer of the Assad regime.

In the wake of the sarin gas attack that precipitated U.S. retaliatory strikes on Syrian military targets late Thursday, the Trump administration’s strategy in Syria has been unclear. McMaster said the missile strike was to meant to send a "strong political message to Assad" and added that White House was “prepared to do more."

However, ahead of a visit to Moscow today the U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said last week’s airstrikes had not changed U.S. priorities on Assad. In a televised interview that aired Sunday on CBS Tillerson said defeating ISIS remained the priority.

The statements from Washington come on the eve of a meeting of G7 leaders in Luca, Italy. U.S. allies Britain and Japan have said they will look to pressure Moscow to end its support of the Syrian government in Damascus, raising the prospect of further sanctions on Russia.