PALO ALTO, Calif. – Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signaled America's deepest commitment to Syria on Wednesday, saying the United States would maintain its military presence there to prevent the resurgence of the Islamic State. He said the United States would also press for broader political changes in the Middle East country.
Speaking at Stanford University after being introduced by former diplomat Condoleezza Rice, Tillerson said the Trump administration was determined not to repeat the "mistake" of President Barack Obama. when he withdrew US troops from Iraq in 2011. Republicans have argued for years that the withdrawal created the opening for the rapid expansion of IS.
Instead, Tillerson stressed that US forces would remain in Syria in the immediate future as President Donald Trump and his aides implement a new strategy to stabilize Syria, where a civil war has killed half a million people and has created millions of refugees since 2011. There are currently some 2,000 US troops in Syria, mainly training local forces to eliminate extremist strongholds.
"Let's be clear, the United States will maintain a military presence in Syria focused on ensuring that ISIS can not re-emerge," even Erson said. Recalling what he said went wrong in Iraq, Tillerson said: "We can not allow history to repeat itself in Syria: ISIS has one foot in the grave and maintains a US military presence in Syria until the full and complete defeat of Syria is achieved. ISIS., Will soon have two. "
Beyond Counterterrorism, however, Tillerson described a much broader mission for American forces in Syria than when Trump came into power for the first time with an almost singular focus on defeat of the terrorists. In addition to defeating IS and al-Qaida, Tillerson cited several long-range proposals as US goals: to ensure a successful UN peace process, get Syrian President Bashar Assad out of power, rid Syria of Iranian influence and eradicate all weapons of mass destruction in the country. 19659003] Backed by Russia and Iran, Assad has reaffirmed control over much of Syria. And Republicans and Democrats in the United States have been concerned that Assad's two allies are now entrenched in the country, and that Iran in particular represents an immediate threat to neighboring Israel. Military leaders, meanwhile, fear that Assad's inability to calm local unrest means that IS or some other similar formation reappears in the future.
Tillerson illustrated how the USA UU They would continue to try to isolate the Assad government even if the US objective is "stabilization." Washington will not allow international aid for reconstruction to flow to any part of Syria under Assad's control, he said. It will discourage countries from trading with their government.
"Instead, we will encourage international assistance to rebuild areas that the global coalition and its local partners have liberated," Tillerson said, suggesting such an approach could pressure Assad to resign. "Once Assad has left power, the United States will gladly encourage the normalization of economic relations between Syria and other nations."
More immediate, Tillerson asked Russia to continue working with the US. UU In a "de-escalation" area in southwestern Syria and adhere to commitments to a peace process led by the UN. Mediation in the United States has languished for years without any progress and the fighting between Assad's military and rebel groups persists.
In Syria, the United States is also grappling with disagreements with its close partner, Turkey. NATO's ally is fiercely opposed to an expanded training program for the Kurdish and Arab border guards in Syria. See the Kurdish forces working with the United States as an extension of the Kurdish insurgency in Turkey.