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Rex Tillerson: ‘Crucial’ to maintain US military presence in Syria

January 17, 2018

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STANFORD, California: The US signaled on Wednesday an open-ended military presence in Syria as part of a broader US strategy to prevent Daesh’s resurgence, pave the way diplomatically for the eventual departure of Syrian President Bashar Assad and curtail Iran’s influence.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in a speech at Stanford University, made clear the United States would work diplomatically toward Assad’s exit from power, but called for “patience” – an acknowledgment that Assad has been bolstered by Russia and Iran and is unlikely to leave power immediately.

Tillerson’s urging of patience was the clearest indication yet of Washington’s acknowledgment that Assad’s stronger position in Syria, bolstered by Russia and Iran, meant he would not leave power immediately.

Billed as the Trump administration’s new strategy on Syria, the announcement will prolong the risks and redefine the mission for the US military, which has for years sought to define its operations in Syria along more narrow lines of battling Daesh and has about 2,000 US ground forces in the country.

While much of the US strategy would focus on diplomatic efforts, Tillerson said: “Let us be clear – the United States will maintain a military presence in Syria, focused on ensuring Daesh cannot re-emerge,” while acknowledging many Americans’ skepticism of military involvement in conflicts abroad, Tillerson said.

Beyond defeating Daesh and Al-Qaeda, the US strategy includes several longshot propositions. Among them — securing a successful UN peace process, getting Assad to leave power and ridding Syria of Iran’s influence.


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