Syria pulled back some forces but left others, U.S. official says
The Syrian government appears to have pulled some of its troops back as the deadline looms for a cease-fire, but elsewhere satellite photos show it has just moved armored vehicles to other towns or kept artillery within striking range, U.S. Ambassador Robert Ford said Friday.
More than a year into an uprising that is believed to have claimed more than 10,000 lives, Syria has agreed to a peace plan that includes a cease-fire and political talks with the opposition. United Nations officials say it has also agreed to a deadline of Tuesday to implement the plan.
Opposition activists and many Western leaders have been skeptical that Syrian President Bashar Assad will keep his word in light of previous failures in negotiations with the government. Syrian dissidents have reported continuing attacks, Ford noted, including regime artillery being used in residential areas.
“This is not the reduction in offensive Syrian government security operations that all agree must be the first step for the Annan initiative to succeed,” Ford said in a message on the Facebook page of the U.S. Embassy in Syria, referring to the peace plan brokered by U.N. special envoy Kofi Annan.
Ford displayed satellite images of Syrian towns before and after the purported withdrawal. The photos, posted on the U.S. Embassy Facebook page and shared here with permission, appear to show that armored vehicles and tanks were removed from the town of Dail:
Armored vehicles were also apparently removed from Taftanaz, but it looks like they were simply moved to nearby Zirdana, Ford wrote:
And in areas such as Homs and Zabadani, other photos appear to show that artillery units have remained in striking distance of residential areas. This is one of the images he provided from Idlib:
"The regime and the Syrian people should know that we are watching," Ford wrote.
-- Emily Alpert in Los Angeles
Photo: U.S. Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford testifies before the Human Rights Commission of the House of Representatives on March 27, 2012, in Washington. Credit: Karen Bleier / AFP/Getty Images