By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON – The violence in Syria is “deplorable and disgusting,” and another indication that the Assad regime has to go, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters.
At his regularly scheduled news conference, Little said forces loyal to Bashar al-Assad are killing innocent Syrian civilians.
He called it a sign of desperation on the part of Syrian forces.
“They are lashing out, and they are lashing out in a violent and brutal way,” he said. “And that is absolutely unacceptable.”
International efforts led by United Nations envoy Kofi Annan are underway to find an end to the violence. Little suggested the solution is clear.
“I would reiterate, once again, that it’s time for President Assad to step aside and for Syria to return to a country of greater peace and stability and a place where the Syrian people can determine their own future,” he said.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has said there is no silver bullet to ending the conflict, and today Little elaborated on what the secretary meant.
“We have a degree of violence that is intolerable, perpetrated by a relatively well-armed regime,” Little said. “We have an array of opposition groups that are trying to push back on the regime. We know that the circumstances here are very difficult, and I think that’s getting … to what the secretary was alluding to.”
Pakistan also is causing concern among U.S. officials. American negotiators pulled out of talks with the Pakistani government on re-opening ground supply lines to Afghanistan, which Pakistan closed seven months ago. However, U.S. defense officials say this does not mean all conversations with Pakistan has ended.
“We continue to have dialogue on this issue,” Little said. “Yes, the negotiating team is coming home for what we hope is a short period of time. We hope that the [ground lines of communication] are reopened soon, and we look forward to having our officials go back to Islamabad to seal the deal at some point in the near future.”
Pakistan closed the land routes into Afghanistan after a NATO airstrike along the Afghan-Pakistan border in November mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
Little said many of the technical issues toward reopening the supply lines have been resolved.
“We have a few more to work through, and we believe we can get to ‘yes’ with the Pakistanis at the end of the day,” he said. “And we hope that day comes sooner rather than later.”