Gabbard makes unannounced trip to Syria

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Washington (CNN)Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard -- a sharp critic of US involvement in Syria's civil war -- is currently on what her office is calling a "fact-finding" trip to that country.

It is not clear who the Hawaii congresswoman will be meeting with on the visit, which was first reported by Foreign Policy and will also take her to Lebanon. Her office cited security reasons for not releasing more information.
"As a Member of the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees, and as an individual committed to doing all she can to promote and work for peace, she felt it was important to meet with a number of individuals and groups, including religious leaders, humanitarian workers, refugees and government and community leaders," a spokesperson for Gabbard said in an email.
Tulsi served two tours in the Middle East as a member of the Army National Guard, according to her House website.
    Speaking to CNN's Chris Cuomo, Gabbard argued last year that the US should stop its "illegal, counter-productive war to overthrow the Syrian government of Assad."
    "I don't think Assad should be removed," Gabbard told Cuomo. "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."
    The statement from Gabbard spokesperson Emily Latimer noted the congresswoman recently introduced the "Stop Arming Terrorists Act" or H.R 258, which would "prohibit the use of United States Government funds to provide assistance to Al Qaeda, Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and to countries supporting those organizations, and for other purposes."
    "Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard has long been committed to peace and ending counterproductive, interventionist wars," the statement said.
    Earlier this week, CNN reported the Pentagon was in the process of preparing new military strategies for the incoming administration that could potentially increase the US's on-the-ground involvement in the war against ISIS in Syria.