WASHINGTON - Government forces in Syria
should be held together when Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is forced
from power, the US defense secretary said on Monday, warning
that the mistakes of the Iraq war must not be repeated.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta
, in an interview with CNN
during a visit to Tunisia
, said maintaining stability in Syria
would be important under any scenario that sees Assad leave
"I think it's important when Assad leaves, and he will
leave, to try to preserve stability in that country," Panetta
"The best way to preserve that kind of stability is to
maintain as much of the military and police as you can, along
with security forces, and hope that they will transition to a
democratic form of government. That's the key."