U.S. military must stay in Syria: Tillerson

U.S. military must stay in Syria: Tillerson

Similarly, Iranian influence inside Syria through Tehran's use of proxy forces alongside its own military presence remains a reality that must be checked, Tillerson said. "What is it he's tweeting about, and how do we take that and now use it?"

"It is crucial to U.S. national interest to maintain military, diplomatic presence in Syria to help end in conflict there", explained Tillerson.

Trump administration officials, including Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, had previously disclosed elements of the policy, but Tillerson's speech was meant to formalize and clearly define it.

Staying in Syria, Tillerson said, will help ensure that the Trump administration does not repeat what he described as the mistakes of former President Barack Obama, who withdrew troops from Iraq before the extremist threat was doused and failed to stabilize Libya after North Atlantic Treaty Organisation airstrikes that led to the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi.

As a presidential candidate, U.S. President Donald Trump was critical of his predecessors' military interventions in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Tillerson was at Stanford's Hoover Institution on Wednesday to give a speech on the US's efforts in stabilizing Syria.

After almost seven years of war, hundreds of thousands of Syrians killed and a humanitarian disaster, Tillerson asked nations to keep up economic pressure on Assad but provide aid to areas no longer under Islamic State's control.

"Our expectation is that the desire for a return to normal life, and these tools of pressure, will help rally the Syrian people and individuals within the regime to compel Assad to step aside", Tillerson said.

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Tillerson's comments were the first time a senior Trump administration official pledged to keep USA troops in Syria well after the current battle ends.

"The Assad regime clearly looks to Russian Federation as a guarantor of its security", Tillerson said. Among them, securing a successful United Nations peace process, getting Syrian President Bashar Assad to leave power, and ridding Syria of Iran's influence.

But it was not immediately clear how or why Moscow would heed Washington's oft-repeated demands.

However, he said that once he looks at the information it's "just his way of wanting to communicate on the subject".

Key questions that Tillerson left unaddressed, he continued, included how long Assad should remain in power and whether he would play a role in any political transition.

Last week the US announced that it will create a 30,000-strong border force with the Syrian Democratic Forces to prevent any Daesh resurgence in the Syria-Turkey border area, much to its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally's anger.

Assad responded by vowing to crush the new force and drive USA troops from Syria. He called the US military's withdrawal from neighboring Iraq a mistake.

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