News / Middle East

    Top US General: 'No Doubt' Russia Stabilized Syrian Regime

    Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford (R) with Defense Secretary Ash Carter, is seen during a news conference at the Pentagon, March 25, 2016.
    Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford (R) with Defense Secretary Ash Carter, is seen during a news conference at the Pentagon, March 25, 2016.

    The top U.S. general says he has "no doubt" that Russian intervention in Syria propped up the government of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad.

    "With respect to Russian activity in Syria, there's absolutely no doubt that they stabilized the regime, and they have put themselves in a position to influence the political solution," General Joe Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Tuesday, speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

    Dunford said the Syrian government was "reeling" in July and August of last year but is now in "much better shape." Russia's withdrawal from Syria "calls into question" their true purpose for entering into the Syrian conflict, he added.

    "The stated intent was to go after ISIL," he said, using an acronym for Islamic State. "They've now announced the withdrawal. From my perspective, there's still some work to be done against ISIL."

    New military methods needed

    The general said one of the "most significant challenges" the U.S. military is dealing with is the need for  "more effective methods" to deal with Russian behavior in Georgia and Crimea, malign Iranian influence across the Middle East and Chinese aggression in the South China Sea.

    The traditional U.S. military approach, he explained, is to either be at peace or at conflict, but Dunford said that method is "insufficient" to deal with players advancing their interests while avoiding U.S. military strengths.

    "The adversary knows exactly what the threshold is for us to take decisive military action, so they operate below that level," Dunford said. "They continue to advance their interest, and we lose the competitive advantage and frankly our interests are adversely affected."

    The general said he will make recommendations to Congress in the coming weeks for significant changes to the military's command and control in order to be more "suited" for the character of current conflicts across the globe.

    Carla Babb

    Carla is VOA's Pentagon correspondent covering defense and international security issues. Her datelines include Ukraine, Turkey, Pakistan, Korea, Japan and Egypt.

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    Comment Sorting
    by: Mark from: Virginia
    March 30, 2016 7:01 AM
    Reading through these comments, I am left with one overwhelming thought to this problem in the Middle East....

    Foreign intervention. Too many outside influences trying to "advance their interests" at the expense of the local governments and the people who have lived there for thousands of years. What a mess we (the foreigners) have made of that region. While, in our minds, we had good intentions, it was our deeds and actions after the good intentions wore off, that created the friction and animosity of the indigenous people. Sure, they may have been warring amongst themselves for most of those thousands of years, but we (the foreigners) had to stick our noses in and make it worse.

    Unfortunately, there are too many fingers in the pot now to simply withdraw our hands and leave.

    by: Plain Mirror Intl from: Plain Planet - Africa
    March 30, 2016 6:08 AM
    The US is confused! Even from their looks and ulterances, tongues only waggles in confusion. Oh US... you gonna reap just what you sow! Just for once say Russia - Puttin, you have done well!
    In Response

    by: meanbill from: USA
    March 30, 2016 7:59 AM
    Never in a million years will the US give credit to Russia for ending the Syrian war in less than 5 months? .. And never in a million years will the US admit the Russians showed them how to defeat and destroy the terrorists in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya? .. And never in a million years will the US admit that their strategy (of arming and training tens of thousands of Sunni Muslim terrorist/rebels to defeat Assad) was a colossal mistake that unleased tens of thousands of ISIL and al-Qaeda terrorists on the world? .. And never in a million years will the US admit it was the strategy of the commander in chief to arm and train the terrorist/rebels to wage Jihad war on the Shia Muslim government of Assad and Syria? .. but count on history to record it?

    by: Marcus Aurelius II from: NJ USA
    March 30, 2016 5:48 AM
    Russia mostly fought the rebels while the US was attacking IS. Assad has been given more time but in the end he can't win. The only viable argument backers of Assad have is that what follows if he's goine would be even worse. They might be right. What's the best case scenario for the US? Perhaps the breakup and Balkanization of Syria, Iraq, Iran. We can lay the current borders and crisis they created on Britain after WWI. Just another of their countless thoughtless blunders. It's a wonder the world survived the British Empire.
    In Response

    by: Marcus Aurelius II from: NJ USA
    March 31, 2016 6:01 AM
    Russian can't fight its way out of a paper bag. Look at the mess they made of Donetsk and Luhansk right on their own border. How can they possibly fight an asymmetric war against IS. When those Cyrillic IS groups return home they'll be on their way to Russia. They will attack from the inside and no one will even know who they are or see the attacks coming. What a mistake Putin made this time.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    March 30, 2016 2:26 PM
    If any "Balkanization" is going to happen, it will happen to Turkey.
    In Response

    by: Anonymous
    March 30, 2016 7:43 AM
    under American attack, IS only advanced and managed to capture Palmyra. it is only after the intervention of Russian military, IS has started to loose ground. Russia managed to free Palmyra from IS within weeks. But, US has been attacking IS for years in Syria without any progress.

    When it comes to middle east, No jihadist group can be called as good or moderate. All the jihadist groups has only one agenda. they want to implement sharia law. such radical jihadist groups which received help from US to fight Assad are called as rebels. nothing else.

    supporting, arming, training group of jobless angry people filled with religious ideology to fight their own government is no way to solve the problem of terrorism. But, This is what US has been doing in Syria for years.

    by: Anonymous
    March 30, 2016 5:11 AM
    US failed to defeat terrorists in Syria. Because, US called some of those terrorists as insurgents, moderate rebels. US policy of supporting and training radical Islamic religious groups to fight Assad has only helped terrorists. US which wants to fight terrorism has wrong allies like Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar which arm and support Sunni religious groups in Syria. No religious group or moderate opposition rebels can be a better alternative to Assad in Syria. Because,They are all terrorists in nature. Only moderate left in Syria is Assad who is fighting terrorists effectively. Now, Russia is doing what America has failed to do. Russia is supporting Syria which is really fighting terrorism. But, US has supported wrong countries in middle east which pretend to fight terrorism. supporting moderate leader like Assad is the best way to defeat terrorism in Syria.

    by: Igor from: Russia
    March 29, 2016 10:16 PM
    The "most significant thing" the U.S. military in the Middle East is to leave Syria and let Russia do the job with its allies. As long as the US continue its involvement in the Middle, there will be more wars, killings, destructions...The US and its allies are uninvited guests of Syrian people.
    The US has done nothing good so far but arming and supporting countless groups of terrorists controlled by the ISIS.

    by: C L Who from: USA
    March 29, 2016 6:12 PM
    Didn't the General read yesterday's paper? The Syrian Arab Army retook Palmyra with the assistance of 41 air strikes in close support of the infantry. The Russians are still in Syria, and will be until victory over IS. That time is now on the near horizon as the SAA is heading toward Raqqa.

    by: Wes
    March 29, 2016 5:03 PM
    What?! Russia has motive in the middle East?! You mean, they are not just policing Syria to remove isil for us? Get real.....

    by: Kafantaris
    March 29, 2016 5:01 PM
    "Russia is wounded and is licking its wounds," says Anne Garrels.
    We kinda figured that, but so are we, and so are others.
    Anyway, Russia might now want to take in Syria's Assad and his rich friends. And the August deadline for a Syrian constitution gives them plenty of time to pack up their loot for Russia. Who knows, the United Nations might even throw in an offer of prosecutorial immunity to help them like the cold.

    by: Emily from: US
    March 29, 2016 3:48 PM
    "The stated intent was to go after ISIL," he said, using an acronym for Islamic State. "They've now announced the withdrawal. From my perspective, there's still some work to be done against ISIL."

    Yeah like liberating Palmyra a simple thanks and congratulations will do!

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