From an interview General John Allen, Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, recently did with CNN:
QUESTION: But in the short term, it doesn’t sound as if getting rid of President Assad is either (a) the priority or (b) wise if you’re going to take a while. As you said, it could take years. In the short term, it seems as if President Assad is the least bad option.
GENERAL ALLEN: No, President Assad is not an option for us. Our policy is very clear in that there should be, in the end in Syria —
QUESTION: In the end?
GENERAL ALLEN: — a political outcome, a political outcome. And I can’t foresee that date on the calendar today when the end will be. But a political outcome will occur, and President Assad won’t be part of it, frankly. But getting there – an important waypoint in getting there is to prepare the Free Syrian or moderate Syrian opposition elements to be both credible politically and credible militarily so that they are a shaping force in the political outcome overall.
QUESTION: But it seems as if Syria does have a role here, and a couple years ago, they were talking about a concern about Syrian air defenses. Yet last week, U.S. planes, coalition planes were in the skies of Syria – not a shot fired. It seems as if there’s more coordination with the Syrians than the U.S. is letting on.
GENERAL ALLEN: No, we’re not coordinating with the Syrians.
QUESTION: So they just decided to —
GENERAL ALLEN: It’s a pretty wise act on their part not to come up and challenge the air capabilities of the United States and our allies.
QUESTION: The Pentagon admitted you’re not coordinating with the Free Syrian Army either, so wouldn’t that be kind of prudent at this point?
GENERAL ALLEN: I think we’ll see that that will change over time.
And then, when he is directly asked what the ‘end game’ is:
QUESTION: What is that endgame?
GENERAL ALLEN: . . . in Syria, we’re seeking to create the capacity within the Syrian – the Free Syrian elements and the Syrian opposition so that, first of all, they can defend themselves from the Assad regime and from the other al-Qaida-oriented organizations in the battlespace. So they can defend themselves, they can build out their capabilities, they can become politically unified, and ultimately become that voice that is so important to the political outcome – a political outcome that is one that is a political outcome for the Syrian people, an outcome that does not envisage the presence of Assad.
He couldn’t be much clearer, could he?
The U.S. don’t see Assad as having any future in Syria – ‘not an option for us . . . President Assad won’t be part of it, frankly . . . an outcome that does not envisage the presence of Assad’ – and ‘moderate’ military and political forces are being groomed as we speak, with the intent of them becoming a ‘shaping force’ when Assad goes.
He also clearly implies that, ‘over time’, the U.S. will start to coordinate with the ‘Free Syrian Army’ (if they aren’t already).
Whether this strategy will work or not is anyones guess, but that regime change *is* the end game of the strategy seems fairly obvious.