U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused Former Barack Obama on Thursday of sowing chaos in the Middle East by failing to adequately confront Islamist militants.
He made the critique in Cairo, the site of a major speech Obama gave in 2009 in the first year of his presidency.
Republican Trump’s chief diplomat took on Obama by arguing that the Democratic former president had in effect misread and abandoned the Middle East.
“When America retreats, chaos follows,” Pompeo said in a speech at the American University in Cairo in which he did not mention Obama by name.
However, he referred to him as “another American” who gave a speech in the capital of the Arab world’s most populous nation.
Pompeo is touring the region to explain U.S. strategy after Trump’s surprise announcement of an abrupt withdrawal of all 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria.
The decision rattled allies and shocked top U.S. officials, prompting U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to resign.
Pompeo described the U.S. as a “force for good” in the Middle East.
Pompeo also sought to reassure allies that it remained committed to the “complete dismantling” of the threat posed by the Islamic State militant group despite Trump’s decision to withdraw troops from Syria.
The comments raised eyebrows in the U.S. and abroad not the least because Trump himself is being criticised for his ambiguous plan announced last month to pull U.S. troops out of Syria.
While that decision’s timing is unclear, it is widely seen as abandoning the region and favouring U.S. rivals Russia and Iran.