Tillerson says USA troops in Syria to counter Assad

19 January, 2018, 01:53 | Author: Irene Delgado
  • Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Zach Gibson  Getty Images

"ISIS has one foot in the grave, and by maintaining an American military presence in Syria until the full and complete defeat of ISIS is achieved, it will soon have two", Tillerson said, using an acronym for the militant group.

Tillerson's comments came as Turkey threatened action on the Syrian border against the SDF after the the USA -led coalition said Sunday it was working with the Kurdish-led group to set up a 30,000-strong force that would operate along the borders with Turkey and Iraq, as well as within Syria.

They are closely tied to the Kurdistan Workers' Party, which is waging war against North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member and United States ally Turkey.

A military statement said Turkish Gen. Hulusi Akar and intelligence chief, Hakan Fidan, would meet with Russia's military chief Valery Gerasimov to discuss regional security issues, developments in Syria and ongoing peace efforts for the war-torn country.

Condoleezza and Tillerson were among a number of high profile attendants at Wednesday's Hoover Institution conference on USA foreign policy.

As candidate, U.S. President Donald Trump was critical of his predecessors' military interventions in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

"The top USA diplomat said Washington would carry out "stabilization initiatives" such as clearing landmines and restoring basic utilities in areas no longer under Islamic State control, while making clear that "'stabilization' is not a synonym for open-ended nation-building or a synonym for reconstruction.

"Instead, we will encourage worldwide assistance to rebuild areas the global coalition and its local partners have liberated", Tillerson said, suggesting such an approach might pressure Assad to resign.

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Tillerson illustrated how the US would continue trying to isolate Assad's government even as the USA objective is "stabilization". Tillerson said he wants more cooperation with pro-Assad Russian forces in Syria to avoid violence in "de-escalation zones".

The continued presence of the IS in Syria despite the loss of a majority of its territory there is necessary, Tillerson said, to avoid a repeat of the security vacuum that followed the U.S. withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 and the conditions that allowed the IS and other terrorist groups to flourish in the region.

"The departure of Assad through the UN-led Geneva process will create the conditions for a durable peace within Syria and security along the borders", Tillerson said.

The United Nations Special Envoy for Syria said on Wednesday he had invited the Syrian government and opposition to a special meeting next week in Vienna.

Tillerson also urged Russian Federation to play a "meaningful" role in handling the Syria issue. The US has at least 2,000 troops in Syria, according to Pentagon figures released in December. Ties between the two countries have been strained over USA support for the Syrian Democratic forces, the mainly Kurdish-led militias fighting Islamic State in northern Syria with the help of US forces.

The ministry also slammed the US military presence in Syria, saying such an existence took place to "protect the IS that was formed by the Obama administration".

Turkey, which regards the US-backed YPG militia as a faction of the outlawed Kurdish separatist PKK and thus a terrorist group, reacted with fury and vowed to destroy the new unit.

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