sees Syria rebels in political, not military solution: Asharq al-Awsat
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[October 27, 2014]
BEIRUT (Reuters) - The United States
does not expect Syrian rebels it plans to train to fight Islamic State
militants to also take on President Bashar al-Assad's forces, but sees
them as a crucial part of a political solution to end the war, a senior
U.S. official said.
The United States, which is leading an international coalition
bombing Islamic State in Syria, has said it wants to train and equip
"moderate" rebels to fight the militant group which has seized
tracts of land in Syria and neighboring Iraq.
Asked whether those rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) units would
ultimately go on to fight Syrian government forces, John Allen, the
U.S. representative to the coalition, told the Asharq al-Awsat
"No. What we would like to see is for the FSA and the forces that we
will ultimately generate, train and equip to become the credible
force that the Assad government ultimately has to acknowledge and
"There is not going to be a military solution here," he added, in
comments published at the weekend on the newspaper's English
The Free Syrian Army is a term used to describe dozens of armed
groups fighting to overthrow Assad but with little or no central
command. They have been widely outgunned by Islamist insurgents such
as Islamic State.
Rebel fighters have voiced frustration with the U.S.-led approach to
fighting Islamic State. They say Washington and its Arab allies are
too focused on quashing the militant group at the expense of
confronting Syrian government forces, which many rebels still see as
the ultimate enemy.
The Syrian air force has ramped up its own bombing campaign on
insurgent-held areas since the U.S-led air strikes began last month,
increasing rebel fears that the government is profiting from the
distraction of the coalition campaign.
Allen said there was a need to build up the credibility of the
moderate Syrian opposition at a political level, adding that it was
normal for rebel forces to clash with the Syrian military as they
seek to defend their territory and families.
"But the intent is not to create a field force to liberate Damascus
— that is not the intent," Allen, a retired U.S. general, told the
[to top of second column]
"The intent is that in the political outcome, they must be a
prominent - perhaps the preeminent voice - at the table to
ultimately contribute to the political outcome that we seek," he
said at the start of a Middle East tour.
U.S. President Barack Obama said last month he wanted to train and
equip Free Syrian Army rebels to "strengthen the opposition as the
best counterweight to the extremists" and to prevent U.S. troops
from being dragged into another ground war.
"The outcome that we seek in Syria is akin to the (anti-Islamic
State) strategy that fits into a much larger regional strategy and
that outcome is a political outcome that does not include Assad,"
The United Nations says more than 191,000 people have been killed
since the start of the Syrian uprising against Assad's rule in 2011.
Rights groups say the actual figure is higher.
(This story has been refiled to add name of newspaper in headline)
(Reporting by Sylvia Westall; Editing by Gareth Jones)
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