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News | Sept. 8, 2018

Russian-Led Idlib Offensive Would Be Humanitarian Disaster, Dunford Says

By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity

The consequences of a Russian-Syrian regime offensive into Idlib, Syria, against terrorists hiding there would almost certainly be a humanitarian disaster, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here today.

U.S. military planners believe there are better, more focused ways to go after terrorists who have taken shelter in Idlib. “The consequences of a major offensive operation in Idlib will almost certainly be the suffering of a large number of innocent civilians,” Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford told reporters traveling with him.

A meeting in Tehran, Iran, yesterday among Turkey, Russia, Iran and the Syrian regime failed. Russian and regime forces have been building up around the enclave for days, and most observers expect the forces to attack into the area.

An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 terrorists entered Idlib to hide among the hundreds of thousands of people who went to the northwestern Syria city to escape violence.

‘Disappointed, But Not Surprised’

Dunford said he is “disappointed, but not surprised” by the failure of the Idlib talks. The city was declared as a designated deconfliction zone. “People were committed to approaching it as such,” he said. “It looks to us as if people are walking away from an agreed-upon approach to deal with Idlib.”

U.S. military officials believe there is a more effective way to do counterterrorism operations than major conventional operations in Idlib. The chairman said the United States was not talking about cooperating, but about using U.S. capabilities to spot the terrorists – even in an urban environment – and take them out with a minimum of civilian casualties.

The chairman said he has not spoken with Gen. Valery Gerasimov, his Russian counterpart, since the crisis over Idlib began, and that he is not scheduled to speak with him.

(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)