The Trump administration is considering setting up “safe zones” in Syria and neighboring areas for refugees, according to a draft executive order obtained by The Huffington Post.
The order, which has yet to be verified, aims to prevent Syrians displaced by the ongoing civil war from fleeing to the U.S. by establishing the “safe zones” which will be used to “protect vulnerable Syrian populations” while they “await firm settlement” in Syria or other countries.
According to the document, Secretary of Defense James Mattis would coordinate with the future secretary of state to accomplish the task. Rex Tillerson, Trump’s pick to lead the Department of State, is awaiting Senate confirmation.
Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon was unable to verify the documents, noting “DoD does not comment on pre-decisional draft documents.”
The White House was also unwilling to acknowledge the authenticity of the draft order.
“The president has talked extensively about extreme vetting,” White Press Secretary Sean Spicer said Wednesday. “And you’ll see more action this week on keeping America safe. This has been something he talked about in the inaugural address. He talked about it in the campaign.”
Spicer added that the U.S. needs to take the proper steps to “ensure” that people coming “from a country that has a propensity to do us harm” would be properly vetted.
Trump promised during his campaign that he would stem immigration of individuals from countries which have a tendency for terrorism, but his executive order (should it be accurate) may be difficult to implement. First and foremost, the “safe zones” would likely require massive U.S. troop deployments. Potentially tends of thousands, according to a report by the Military Times. The U.S. has around 500 troops in Syria, mostly special forces, but a massive deployment could cause logistical and diplomatic problems.
Additionally, the plan might be too little too late. The six-year-long civil war has caused more than 11 million people to flee Syria to neighboring countries, Europe and elsewhere. The Syrian government is also in the midst of securing a ceasefire with the rebel groups which could leave those already abroad stranded.
The supposed draft calls for an overhaul of the U.S. refugee policy and an immediate 30-day suspension of visas from countries with terrorist presence.
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