Syria safe zones ‘a viable concept’ top US military commander says
On Monday, four-star General Votel met with Lebanese President Michel Aoun, Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Defense Minister Yaacoub Sarraf to discuss military strategy against the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and other jihadist forces in Syria.
Syrian safe zones would be “a viable concept” in “areas that have already been secured where we already have humanitarian and stabilization activities ongoing,” Votel said, according to Foreign Policy.
However, “You’ve got to have all of the resources,” Votel added. That would include ground troops, but the general reportedly did not go into specifics about which country or countries would provide the boots on the ground.
Turkey is skeptical of a safe zone in Syria, where Kurdish forces may hold an influential position. Turkish President Recep Erdogan threatened that its Free Syrian Army allies could attack the Kurds, an incident Votel said could “have an impact on the coalition campaign plan,” Foreign Policy reported.
“We are fully engaged with our Turkish partners,” Votel added, referring to northern Syria, where Kurdish forces have advanced.
During his campaign, President Trump regularly reassured critics of his harsh position on refugees by proclaiming his support for a safe zone in Syria.
Trump is expected in the near future to announce a new plan to defeat the Islamic State, particularly in Syria and Iraq.
Once major combat operations are over in western Mosul, Iraq, however, “the Iraqis understand they will require US and coalition support,” Votel told Foreign Policy. “They are looking for continuing support that allows them to prevent the reemergence of this enemy, and to give them the ability to handle this on their own.”