H.R. McMaster, U.S. President Donald Trump's national security adviser, has said the United States wants to defeat the Islamic State (IS) extremist group in Syria and see the removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
He said, however, in an April 9 interview with "Fox News Sunday" that the United States was not looking to act on its own to drive Assad from power.
"It's very difficult to understand how a political solution could result from the continuation of the Assad regime," McMaster said in his first television interview.
"Now, we are not saying that we are the ones who are going to effect that change,” he added.
“What we are saying is, other countries have to ask themselves some hard questions. Russia should ask themselves.... Why are we supporting this murderous regime that is committing mass murder of its own population?" he said.
U.S. leaders have sent mixed messages about the Trump administration’s priorities in the Syrian conflict.
Previously, they have said that removing Assad from office was not the main goal.
But after the April 4 reports of a suspected chemical-weapons attack carried out by the Syrian government, Trump said his attitude toward Assad "has changed very much," and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said "steps are under way" to organize a coalition to remove him from power.
Pressed to clarify, McMaster said the goals of fighting IS and removing Assad were somewhat "simultaneous."
When asked about Russia’s support for Assad, McMaster asked, "How is it in anyone's interest that this conflict in Syria and this catastrophe in the greater Middle East continue?"