Defense

Defense chief: No easy way to create safe zones in Syria

Francis Rivera

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told the Senate Wednesday that establishing humanitarian safe zones in Syria would require a “major combat mission.”

U.S. troops would need to “fight” to create and maintain such a space, Carter told a Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee.

“We have thought this through–how to secure that zone,” Carter told the panel. “It’s a difficult thing to contemplate…and challenging.”

Two weeks ago, four senators sent a letter to President Obama urging the administration to create safe zones in Syria that would provide a safe transit route for people to flee and find safety.

{mosads}“We urge that the United States work with key allies to establish and enforce one or more humanitarian safe zones in Syria without delay,” the letter said. “These zones would provide essential protection for displaced Syrian civilians and a safe transit route for desperately needed humanitarian supplies.”

Carter said establishing humanitarian safe zones in Syria would be contested by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), al-Nusrah and Syrian forces. Countries bordering Syria would not necessarily support safe zones either, Carter added.

U.S. troops are only on the ground battling ISIS in Iraq, serving in advisory roles. The U.S. has also launched airstrikes against ISIS over Iraq and Syria.

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), ranking member on the subcommittee and Democratic whip, was one of the four senators who asked Obama to authorize the creation of these zones.

Durbin clarified that the U.S. should “not be going in alone” and should coordinate with the United Nations and other nations.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) as well as Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) also signed onto the letter sent to the White House.

Tags Dick Durbin John McCain Lindsey Graham Tim Kaine
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