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US Envoy Discusses Strategy for Building Syrian Opposition

  • Pamela Dockins

FILE - Free Syrian Army fighters look at a Syrian opposition flag in Aleppo's Bustan al-Basha district.

FILE - Free Syrian Army fighters look at a Syrian opposition flag in Aleppo's Bustan al-Basha district.

U.S. special envoy General John Allen says it will take time to train and equip Syria's moderate opposition to fight Islamic State (IS) militants because several factors have to be considered. He commented following a trip to the Middle East, where he held talks with U.S. allies on building the U.S.-led coalition that is fighting the militants.

General Allen says one of the coalition's goals is to build up elements of the Free Syrian Army so that, over time, the group will be able to make its “weight felt” in the battle against the Islamic State.

Calling it “a holistic approach,” he says there is more to the strategy than just increasing the battlefield capacity of the moderate Syrian opposition.

“They need to begin to build and work together to create a coherent political superstructure within which they will ultimately have a political role to play in the outcome of our strategy, overall, with regard to Syria,” said he.

Allen met with the moderate Syrian opposition during his visit to the region. His trip included a stop in Turkey, a nation that has been criticized for its perceived slow response to the crisis, especially in Kobani, a Kurdish town near Syria's border with Turkey besieged by IS forces.

Allen says the coalition has picked up the tempo and intensity of airstrikes around Kobani to push back IS militants.

“We are striking the targets around Kobani for humanitarian purposes. I would be very reluctant to assign something, a term like strategic target or strategic outcome for the strategy. Clearly, there was a need, given the circumstances associated with the defense of that town,” said Allen.

In an interview with VOA's Kurdish Service, Kurdish People's Protection Units spokesman Polat Can said his group's forces were assisting coalition efforts to defend Kobani.

He said the group has a direct relationship with the coalition in terms of intelligence on a military level and in terms of airstrikes. He also said his group's units in Kobani have been transmitting coordinates to coalition forces for strikes.

Meanwhile, General Allen says U.S. coalition-building efforts are continuing. He says he will travel to the Gulf region in the coming weeks on a mission to discuss ways to cut off funding to the Islamic State.

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