US Secretary of State John Kerry says the United States and its allies have “wasted a year” in Syria by failing to coordinate efforts to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.
In a private meeting with Syrian opposition leaders at the State Department in Washington, D.C. last Thursday, Kerry lamented that the lack of coordination had dramatically set back the drive to remove Assad from power, The Daily Beast reports.
The participants said Kerry made the remark when discussing renewed efforts to direct the flow of both aid and weapons to militants in Syria.
Several State Department officials, at least one National Security Council staffer, and several representatives of the Syrian opposition, including Ahmad Jarba, the head of the so-called Syrian National Coalition (SNC), were in attendance, according to three participants in the meeting.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Beast on Sunday, Abdul-Ilah al-Bashir, the recently-appointed chief of staff of the so-called Free Syrian Army (FSA), said the main purpose of the Syrian opposition delegation’s trip to Washington was to ask for anti-aircraft weapons and other advanced arms from the United States.
“The main purpose for our visit is to get anti-aircraft weapons to protect innocent civilians inside Syria, and we are hoping the United States is going to help us push aside Assad’s air force.”
Bashir acknowledged that the US has been heavily involved in the recent increase in the delivery of advanced arms to the Syrian opposition and tried to reassure Washington that any anti-aircraft weapons provided to militants would be handled responsibly.
“If you provide us with anti-aircraft missiles, there’s no need for a no-fly zone,” he said. “We are not asking for you to send American men and women to fight in Syria.”
The United States is already providing anti-tank missiles to militants in Syria. The BGM-71 TOW (Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided) missiles are emerging in the Arab country as part of a "pilot program" to boost the morale of the downhearted insurgency.