World Bulletin/News Desk
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad may be benefiting from U.S. attacks on ISIL fighters in his country, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Thursday, but he added that U.S. policy still supported Assad's removal from power.
Hagel also told reporters at Pentagon news conference that the systematic killing of Sunni tribesmen in Iraq by ISIL fighters was the brutal "reality of what we're dealing with" in the conflict.
“As we and the coalition go after ISIS to help the Iraqis secure their government, but also the Middle East, yes, Assad derives some benefit of that, of course,” Hagel said.
However, he noted that Washington was pursuing a long-term strategy, which opposes any role for Assad in the future of Syria.
U.S. Defense Secretary Hagel stressed the need for honesty in internal government discussions on Thursday as he declined comment on a two-page internal memo he wrote on Syria policy, described as critical by people familiar with its contents.
The memo from Hagel to White House National Security Adviser Susan Rice was first reported by the New York Times, which said he warned President Barack Obama's Syria policy was in jeopardy due to its failure to clarify its intentions toward Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Two people familiar with its contents, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters they agreed with the description of the memo by the Times as critical.
Asked about the memo, Hagel told a Pentagon news conference: "We owe the president and we owe the National Security Council our best thinking on this."
"And it has to be honest and it has to be direct," Hagel said, without citing areas of disagreement.
Obama faces criticism at home and abroad for looking at the crisis in Syria almost exclusively through the threat of the ISIL, while failing to address attacks by Assad's forces that undermine the opposition that Washington will ultimately need.
The Obama administration's position is that Assad must go but it hopes to defer that challenge until later to focus on ISIL militants in Iraq and Syria.
Hagel suggested that the future governance of Syria needs to be at the core of American actions, now centered around air strikes against ISIL targets and plans for training Syrian opposition forces.
"The fighting can go on for years and years to what end? ... It's in our interest not to have an unstable Middle East," Hagel said, stressing the need to manage current threats while focusing on "some longer term strategies and objectives."
Assad has been barrel bombing Syrian opposition while ISIL, his other enemy, has been struck by U.S. airstrikes, which strengthens his position in the conflict.
Hagel acknowledged that stability in Syria would require all the countries in the region to work together to find a solution. That includes Turkey, has put more emphasis on the removal of the Assad regime as it is one of the key factors giving way to ISIL to create a safe haven in Syria.
Hagel also confirmed during the briefing that some Guantanamo Bay detainees released by the U.S. have returned to join the fight in the Middle East on the side of ISIL and other groups.
He added that closing the prison there is in the best interest of the U.S.
Last Mod: 31 Ekim 2014, 11:16