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By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 1, 2013 – Defense Department leaders continue to work on options and refine plans to respond to the situation in Syria if called upon, Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said here today.

Since opposition to the Bashar Assad regime burst into war, DOD officials have been developing options for a wide range of contingencies, Little said.

“We continue to refine those plans based on how the conflict is unfolding and based on information we receive,” he added. “That’s our responsibility, and we believe it is important to have options on the shelf to pull off in case the president looks to us to execute those options.”

Little stressed that U.S. government officials and international partners not only are looking at ways to aid the opposition, but also are considering the “day after” the Assad regime falls.

“This is not just about bringing an end to the Assad regime,” he said. “It’s also working with Syrians and partners in the region and other partners in the international community to help the Syrian people define for themselves what a post-Assad Syria will look like.”

U.S. concern in the region is not just about chemical weapons or extremist groups in Syria, Little said.

“This is a very complex, challenging environment, and those are factors that you have to weigh when you are working with others to define the day after,” he added. “We stand ready to provide updated options to the president whenever he asks for them. That’s our job.”

Little said DOD is involved with all interagency partners and is following the White House’s lead to bolster humanitarian assistance and determine how to engage even more closely with the opposition.

“We are fully engaged inside the government and with international allies and partners on how to look at the situation in Syria and act if necessary,” he said.

While the United States is fully cognizant of the role extremist groups are playing inside Syria, Little said, “we also understand that there are a large number of moderate opposition groups inside Syria that are trying to define a path toward a post-Assad Syria.”

The U.S. government’s policy on Syria hasn’t changed, he said: The United States is providing nonlethal aid to the opposition.

U.S. officials continue to look for further corroborating evidence of chemical weapons use in Syria, Little said.

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