Pentagon Opposes “Safe Zone” in Syria

The nation’s top two defense leaders Wednesday resisted congressional pressure for creating a “safe zone” to protect Syrian civilians from the fighting between the Syrian regime’s military and opposing forces, including ISIS. During a Senate Defense Appropriations subcommittee hearing, ranking member Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) said he and other senators, including Armed Services Chairman Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), wrote President Obama urging the protective area and asked Defense Secretary Ash Carter his views. Carter said the Pentagon leaders “have thought this through,” but concluded it would be contested by both sides and might not be supported by neighboring nations. “That is a combat mission. We would need to fight to create such a space, and fight to maintain such a space.” Although Carter did not say so, establishing a safe zone would have to be done by air power, as Obama was unlikely to approve use of US ground troops. Joint Chiefs Chairman Army Gen. Martin Dempsey agreed they had studied the issue. “Can we do this? Of course.” But there will be an “opportunity lost” cost because “we can’t do things elsewhere. Militarily, it is practicable, but it would be a significant policy decision,” Dempsey said.