Hawaii Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard was reported to be returning on Wednesday from a secret trip to Syria, which her aides described as a “fact-finding” mission to end the conflict there.
Gabbard spokeswoman Emily Latimer said the representative “felt it was important to meet with a number of individuals and groups including religious leaders, humanitarian workers, refugees and government and community leaders,” Foreign Policy reported.
Gabbard’s trip to the war-torn Damascus is rare for a member of Congress, especially when fighting continues in the area despite the recent ceasefire agreement brokered by Turkey and Russia, the magazine reported.
Gabbard, an Iraq war veteran, has disagreed with other Democrats on how to handle the crisis. She called for the U.S. to stop trying to remove Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power and focus on eliminating the Islamic State and al Qaida in an interview with CNN in 2015.
“If Assad is removed and overthrown, ISIS, al Qaeda, Al Nusra, these Islamic extremist groups will walk straight in and take over all of Syria … they will be even stronger,” she said.
As a member of the Armed Services Committee, the congresswoman earlier this month introduced her bill — Stop Arming Terrorists Act — which would prohibit the government from arming and funding terrorist groups who are working to overthrow the Syrian government.
Latimer declined to comment on whether Gabbard met with Assad, citing security and logistical concerns.
In November, Gabbard met privately with President-elect Donald Trump to discuss current Syria policies and the fight against terrorist groups. She was reported to be under consideration for a Trump cabinet position.
She later said in a statement that Trump and she could “still come together on issues that matter to the American people and affect their daily lives,” regardless of disagreements on issues.