DOD Officials Continue to Study Options in Syria
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 3, 2013 Pentagon officials followed up today on Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s statement yesterday that the United States is looking at arming the Syrian opposition, saying it is important to refine options as the situation on the ground changes.
In a meeting with reporters, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little stressed that the situation in Syria is extremely complicated, noting that the opposition contains jihadists as well as a great number of moderate elements.
“This administration has been focused squarely on Syria for a long time,” he said. The U.S. government has been using diplomatic and economic levers to try and get Syrian president Bashar Assad to step down, and Pentagon and U.S. Central Command officials have been updating military options in case President Barack Obama needs them.
Military options are part of the puzzle that is Syria, but only part, Little said. The U.S. engagement in humanitarian operations in the nation, the diplomatic outreach to other nations in the region and economic sanctions against the government telegraph U.S. views of the conflict.
Those views are clear, Little said. “Assad must go,” he added. “We hope that the Syrian people can determine their own future and that there is a responsible transition to a new Syria.”
The United States and allies also must also think of post-Assad Syria, Little said, noting that once Assad leaves power, American and international partners have to do what is best in a very unstable part of the world.
The U.S. military is supporting the State Department in the humanitarian assistance mission to the people of Syria. U.S. military transport planes delivered packaged meals to countries bordering Syria for delivery to those in need inside the country. Other nonlethal aid being delivered to the opposition includes body armor and night-vision goggles.
“We’re all clear-eyed about the challenges in this crisis, and it may not end overnight,” Little said. “But if we can push this to a place where the violence is drawn down, there is an exit for Assad and there is a way to drive a political solution for the Syrian people themselves, that would be ideal.”