Austin Gives Syria Update

Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, commander of US Central Command, said “if left unchecked” the number of foreign fighters in Syria will continue to grow. “We’ve been able to apply pressure against the Al Qaeda network [in the CENTCOM area of responsibility and] their activity has decreased,” Austin told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday. However, “we’ve seen their activities increase,” in the places where the US has not put a lot of pressure, such as in Syria, he added. To make things worse, the “refugee situation will continue to put pressure on neighboring states,” such as Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey, causing more instability in an already unstable region. However, the international community has made progress in destroying Syria’s chemical weapons. Austin said 36 percent of the stockpile has been destroyed leading up to a June 30 deadline. Though behind in the original projection, “we are probably further along than many would have thought that we’d be,” he said.