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Joint Chiefs' leader: US will not send troops to Syria

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Thursday that the United States will not send troops to Syria or act unilaterally there. Gen. Martin Dempsey's statement came only 24 hours after NATO Secretary-General Anders-Fogh Rasmussen said the organization has no intention of intervening in Syria.

During a House Armed Services hearing, Dempsey was asked whether the United States could send troops to Syria for a possible peacekeeping mission.

"At this point in time, congressman, a decision is that we will not have any boots on the ground and that that we will not act unilaterally in that part of the world," Dempsey said.


He added that one day Syria could be a stabilizing force in that region, but that is more than a decade away.

"Long term this will become a stabilizing influence," Dempsey said, adding, "but I think getting from here to there is going to be a wild ride."

"I think we're in for 10 or 15 years of instability in a region that has already been characterized by instability."

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta echoed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the State Department's recent warnings that military intervention could ultimately bring more civilians deaths.

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"We must also be mindful, as Secretary Clinton has noted, of the possibility that outside military intervention will make a volatile situation even worse and place even more innocent civilians at risk," Panetta said, adding that the United States stands with the Syrian civilians and that "they must know that the international community has not underestimated either their suffering or their impatience."

After 13 months of bloodshed, the Assad regime's attacks have left more than 9,000 dead, according to the United Nations, and displaced tens of thousands.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Violence in Syria is spilling across the border, as Syrian troops target refugees looking for safety.  NBC's Ayman Mohyeldin reports.  

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