WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The United States would have to launch a significant military operation in Syria to establish humanitarian safe zones that would purportedly protect civilians and refugees, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said during a Congressional hearing on Wednesday.
“That’s a combat mission. Major combat mission,” Carter said when asked if the US should establish safe zones in Syria. “We would need to fight to create such a space and then fight to keep such a space.”
It was a difficult task to contemplate, Carter explained, because trying to establish territory where civilians and refugees could flee to for safety would be contested by the Islamic State (ISIL), the al-Nusra Front and the Syrian government forces.
Carter noted that countries bordering Syria, along with other partners in the region, are unlikely to provide the strong military support that will be needed to conduct a safe zone mission.
Since 2014, Syrian opposition figures and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan have pressed US President Barack Obama to establish buffer-zones and safe havens in Syria.
On February 19, 2015, the United States and Turkey signed an agreement to train and equip moderate Syrian rebels opposed to the ISIL militants.
Syria has been torn by civil war since 2011, with government forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad fighting numerous militant groups, including the al-Nusra Front and ISIL.
A US-led international Coalition of some 60 nations began carrying out airstrikes against ISIL targets in Iraq in August 2014, and expanded the air campaign to include Syria in September 2014.