CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Republican Ben Carson said Friday that creating safe zones in Syria and establishing a coalition government in the war-torn nation are better ways to deal with Syrian refugees than resettling them in the United States.
"I think it actually makes a lot more sense and we can provide them with humanitarian support," Carson said after filing his paperwork to run in the New Hampshire presidential primary.
Carson's comments came a day after he compared the process for vetting Syrian refugees to handling a "rabid dog."
The retired neurosurgeon is facing enhanced scrutiny of his foreign policy credentials in the wake of a terrorist attack in Paris that killed 130 people. The Islamic State, which controls large swaths of Syria and Iraq, is claiming credit for the attacks.
Carson said Friday the United States should work on negotiating a cease-fire in Syria, now in the fourth year of a civil war, and create a coalition government that includes President Bashar Assad.
"You're not going to get one faction or another in control without a great deal of strife, but you might be able to form a coalition government, at which time you may be able to repopulate the area (and) repatriate the citizens there," Carson said.
Carson said it would be "pretty hard" to root out Assad and his government, and said the United States' involvement in Libya proved that supporting groups working "against the establishment" isn't always the best choice.
In making his comments, Carson pushed back against criticism that he doesn't have a strong understanding of foreign policy.
"Actually listen to my policies, actually listen to my solutions, you will find that they compare favorably with anybody. But don't listen to the narratives that try to say, 'Oh, he doesn't know anything,'" Carson said.
Carson joined other GOP candidates in criticizing recent remarks from Donald Trump, who voiced support for creating a database to track Muslims in the United States. Carson said it would set a "pretty dangerous precedent" to single someone out because of their religion. He did say the government should keep a database of foreigners who come into the country.
Trump has also proposed monitoring mosques in the United States. Carson said he is in favor of "different treatment" for any mosques that are "radicalizing people," but said he would treat any other institutions supporting terrorism in the same way.
He said, "I favor doing whatever we have to do to protect the American people."
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