Tulsi Gabbard to take two-week break from 2020 campaign to report for active duty

Gabbard, who serves in Hawaii's National Guard, is set to participate in a training exercise mission in Indonesia

Published August 12, 2019 3:32PM (EDT)

Tulsi Gabbard (Getty/Scott Olson)
Tulsi Gabbard (Getty/Scott Olson)

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, is taking two weeks off the presidential campaign trail to report for active duty.

Gabbard, who serves in her state's National Guard, said she will participate in a two-week training exercise mission in Indonesia.

"We'll be doing a training exercise with the Indonesian military, focused on a few different things like counterterrorism, humanitarian aid and disaster response and joining my brothers and sisters from the Hawaii National Guard in doing so," Gabbard told CBS News in an interview that aired Monday.

Gabbard, a four-term congresswoman, served two tours of duty in the Middle East with the Hawaii Army National Guard — in Iraq from 2004-2005 and in Kuwait from 2008-2009. The first female combat veteran ever elected to Congress, she is a member of the House Armed Services Committee and previously sat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

"I love our country. I love being able to serve our country in so many ways, including as a soldier," Gabbard said. "And so while some people are telling me, like, 'Gosh, this is a terrible time to leave the campaign. Can't you find a way out of it?' You know, that's not what this is about."

Gabbard has made her military experience and foreign policy credentials the focus of her presidential bid. But her stances on foreign policy issues have come under intense scrutiny from some 2020 Democrats. Gabbard joined Republicans in denouncing former President Barack Obama for shying away from using the label "radical Islamic terrorism," and she describes herself a "hawk" on terrorism.

Her January 2017 meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has a well-documented record of human rights violations and is engaged in a civil war with U.S.-backed rebels, raised eyebrows on all sides of the political aisle. She has also questioned whether Assad used chemical weapons on his own citizens.

In a campaign ad in March, Gabbard showed a video of the Assad regime dropping barrel bombs on the Syrian city of Darayya in February 2016 to condemn "regime change wars."

One of Gabbard's primary rivals, California Sen. Kamala Harris, denounced her as an "apologist" for Assad.

"I have no regrets and make no apologies for pursuing diplomacy, understanding that the only alternatives to diplomacy is war," Gabbard told CBS News. "We need leaders who will have the courage to meet with brutal dictators, to meet with adversaries in the pursuit of our national security, in the pursuit of keeping the American people safe, and in the pursuit of peace."

Gabbard's foreign policy views have been glorified by the far-right and conservative media outlets like Breitbart, the National Review, the Daily Caller and Fox News, where she reportedly became an "increasingly requested guest."

The congresswoman is one of three Democratic presidential hopefuls who are military veterans, along with Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana; Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts; and former Rep. Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania.

You can watch Gabbard's interview with CBS News here:

By Shira Tarlo

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