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Pentagon head voices support for State Dept. deal with Russia in Syria

12:10, Thursday, 15 September, 2016
Pentagon head voices support for State Dept. deal with Russia in Syria

Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Wednesday voiced support for the State Department's agreement with Russia in Syria, after a report that the Pentagon opposed it.

The deal, reached on Saturday, would entail U.S. military cooperation with Russia to target the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other terrorists in Syria, if a seven-day temporary ceasefire holds.

Since the deal was reached, several U.S. military generals have expressed skepticism over cooperation with Russia. And The New York Times on Wednesday reported that Carter was among the administration officials who expressed opposition to the deal during a conference call last week.
     "We in the Defense Department will play whatever role we have with our accustomed excellence," Carter said during a briefing in Texas, where he is traveling with press.

Details on how the U.S. and Russian military would cooperate to target terrorists in Syria are scant, and military officials say they will be worked out if the seven day ceasefire — which began Monday — holds.

Carter said it looks as if the ceasefire "is largely being held."

"I commend Secretary of State Kerry for getting us the agreement which if it's implemented will ... ease the suffering of the Syrian people which is important to all of us, very important to the president," Carter said.

"We've got a ways to go to see whether it will be implemented, but if it is it will mean that the suffering of the Syrian people is eased. It will mean that Russia gets on the right side of things in Syria, not on the wrong side and that's good news," he added.

Earlier in the day, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, Army Gen. Joseph Votel, said the deal was an "opportunity" to end the a "horrible humanitarian situation."

"I'm hopeful but I'm very realistic about what is before us," he added.

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