Tillerson: US Troops Staying In Syria To Counter Assad, Iran

Plumes of smoke rise on the air from inside Syria as seen from the outskirts of the border town of Kilis Turkey Saturday Jan. 20 2018

Instead, Tillerson stressed that USA forces would remain in Syria for the foreseeable future as President Donald Trump and his aides implement a new strategy to stabilize Syria, where a civil war has killed as many as a half-million people and created millions of refugees since 2011.

But he also made it clear that the open-ended deployment is meant to help create enough stability for Syrians to be able to remove Assad from office and reject Iranian influence.

"A murderer of his own people can not generate the trust required for long-term stability", he said. He said President Donald Trump's administration was implementing a new strategy on Syria that would achieve "key end states" for the carnage engulfing the country - which has left a half million people dead - and would ultimately lead to a political resolution without Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remaining in power.

The United States has deployed around 2,000 ground troops to Syria and its warplanes patrol over the east of the country, hunting remnants of the Islamic State group.

Turkey has reacted angrily and warned of an imminent incursion into Syria's Afrin district after Washington said it would help Syrian Democratic Forces led by Kurdish YPG militias to set up a new 30,000 strong border force, Reuters reported.

In ousting IS from its self-proclaimed capital, Raqqa, and other areas of northeastern Syria previous year, the United States worked with the Syrian Democratic Forces, a militia dominated by Kurdish fighters. It is also not seeking violent "regime change" or contemplating a long-term nation-building mission, he said.

Instead, he argued that the U.S. role will provide stability to allow a UN-led peace process to resume and find a Syrian-led alternative to Assad's rule and the Iranian presence.

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USA forces in Syria have already faced direct threats from Syrian and Iranian-backed forces in the country, leading to the shoot-down of Iranian drones and a Syrian jet a year ago, as well as to tensions with Russian Federation.

Tillerson's remarks seemed to signal an indefinite USA engagement in Syria.

"But let us be clear: the United States will maintain a military presence in Syria, focused on ensuring ISIS can not re-emerge", while acknowledging many Americans' skepticism of military involvement in conflicts overseas, Tillerson said.

He called for the same mistake to be made again in 2011 when "early withdrawal from Iraq allowed al-Qaeda to survive in this country and mutate, giving life to the Islamic State group". If the Syrian President leaves his post as part of a peace process under the aegis of the United Nations, it will create the conditions for lasting peace, the US Secretary of State said.

Tillerson said free, transparent elections in which the Syrian diaspora participates "will result in the permanent departure of Assad and his family from power".

Tillerson said Wednesday that at first the President's tweeting took time to get used to, because "it was very unconventional for all of us".

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