US President Barack Obama insists Syrian President Bashar al-Assad must step down if the Daesh (ISIL) terrorist group is to be defeated.
Speaking Tuesday at a counterterrorism summit in New York, Obama pledged to use all possible tools to destroy Daesh, which he admitted was continuing to expand.
“In Syria… defeating ISIL requires, I believe, a new leader,” Obama told the gathering, held on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
He acknowledged that the fight against the extremist network in Iraq and Syria would take time and called on world leaders to revive the so-called anti-ISIL coalition.
“This is not a conventional battle. This is a long-term campaign – not only against this particular network, but against its ideology,” he added.
Obama’s remarks came a day after he clashed with Russian President Vladimir Putin over the future role of President Assad in Syria.
Putin stole the limelight with his speech at the General Assembly in which he called for a “broad anti-terror coalition” that would include Syria’s army to defeat ISIL.
“We think it is an enormous mistake to refuse to cooperate with the Syrian government and its armed forces who are valiantly fighting terrorism face to face,” Putin said Monday.
Russia snubbed the New York summit by sending a low-level diplomat to the gathering of some 100 world leaders.
Obama, meanwhile, said the United States was willing to work with Russia and Iran to “find a political mechanism in which it is possible to begin a transition process” in Syria.
Russia is set to host a special UN Security Council meeting on confronting terrorist threats on Wednesday, an event bound to highlight differences over how to end the four-year war that has killed more than 240,000.
Russia has been beefing up its military presence in Syria, deploying warplanes, tanks and personnel to an airfield in the port city of Latakia.
The deployment has raised concerns in Washington that Moscow seeks to establish a military outpost in Syria to boost the Assad government.
Putin has denounced US support for militants in Syria as illegal and ineffective.
“In my opinion, provision of military support to illegal structures runs counter to the principles of modern international law and the United Nations Charter,” he told US media on Sunday ahead of a meeting with Obama.
The Obama administration’s strategy against Daesh has come under harsh criticism, especially after a series of damning testimonies in recent weeks by senior military leaders.
A $500 million Pentagon program to “train and equip” a viable proxy force of “moderate” militants in Syria, by the recent admission of US Central Command leader Gen. Lloyd Austin, has produced literally a handful of militants.
Critics say that the US invasion of Iraq and its support for militants fighting the Syrian government have given rise to the Takfiri terrorists in those countries.