WASHINGTON, Nov 27 (Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson is traveling to Jordan on Friday to visit Syrian refugees at a United Nations-run camp, according to media reports.
Carson, a top-tier candidate in public opinion polls, has faced increased scrutiny over his foreign policy credentials amid comments about China’s role in the Syrian crisis, as well as remarks likening some Syrian refugees to rabid dogs.
The retired neurosurgeon will visit a Syrian refugee camp in the northern Jordan town of Azraq, according to the New York Times, which first reported the surprise trip. While there, he will visit a clinic and hospital, the newspaper said.
Representatives for Carson’s campaign could not be immediately reached for comment. NBC News also confirmed the trip.
U.S. Secret Service agents, along with several campaign aides are traveling with Carson, the Times said, adding that the candidate will return to the United States on Sunday.
Carson and other Republican presidential candidates have criticized U.S. President Barack Obama’s plan to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees over the next year, citing the possible risk that militants could slip through. The Obama administration has emphasized the refugee program vetting process.
Last week, Carson likened refugees fleeing the nearly five-year civil war in Syria to “rabid dogs.”
He also faced questions over his comments at a recent debate about China’s role in the conflict.
A political outsider, Carson has acknowledged he faces a “learning curve” when it comes to foreign policy. According to the Times, Carson’s advisers said his trip to Jordan was part of an effort to enhance his understanding of the refugee crisis.
“I want to hear some of their stories, I want to hear from some of the officials what their perspective is,” Carson said, according to the paper. “All of that is extraordinarily useful in terms of formulating an opinion of how to actually solve the problem.”
(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Additional reporting by Ginger Gibson; Editing by Bernadette Baum)