US wants Syria’s Kurds to use humanitarian, other non-military measures

Written by Staff Writer, CNN

Faced with the risk of new violence, the Trump administration is seeking to rely on non-military means to go after ISIS in Syria

“The goal, of course, is to continue to deny ISIS, or their remnants, safe haven, any opportunities to cause harm,” the top U.S. envoy to the coalition, Brett McGurk, told reporters in Washington this week.

Instead, U.S. officials argue that the humanitarian effort will help sustain a new process that will lead to the eventual withdrawal of American forces from Syria. But the proposed U.S. humanitarian package — including the provision of food, education and safe zones — will continue until ISIS forces have been cleared from all of their Syrian territory.

“The notion that we have to somehow jump-start an entire set of humanitarian efforts, even as we are engaged in military operations to remove ISIS, may be not as good a defense as people think,” McGurk added.

The administration’s wide-ranging plan to stabilize Syria’s northern region — designated a de-escalation zone by U.S. officials and in some form participated in by Russia, Iran and Turkey — has triggered a new round of tension between Washington and Damascus.

“There are ongoing discussion about what actually is going to be done on the ground,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said this week. “There is a red line that we do not cross.”

On Monday, McGurk said ISIS has been defeated and it is time to transition to a political process, and the administration has planned for an orderly withdrawal.

“We are not going to be getting out of the fight so that ISIS can come back,” McGurk said. “We are not going to be carrying a United States flag or some other flag over there.”

CNN’s Brian Todd and Ben Wedeman contributed to this report.

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