Russia has proposed a March 1 ceasefire in Syria, US officials say, but Washington believes Moscow is giving itself and the Syrian government three weeks to try to crush moderate rebel groups. The United States has countered with demands for the fighting to stop immediately, officials say. The talk of new ceasefire plans comes as the US, Russia and more than a dozen other countries meet in Munich to try to halt five years of civil war in the Arab country. The Guardian reports that according to a new study from the Syrian Center for Policy Research, the war has killed or injured 470,000 people—11.5% of the population—and has also lowered life expectancy from 70 to 55 and almost "completely obliterated" the country's infrastructure.
The most recent Russian-backed offensive, near Aleppo, prompted opposition groups to walk out of peace talks last month in Geneva, while forcing tens of thousands of civilians to flee toward the Turkish border. Sources tell the AP that the US can't accept Russia's offer of a March 1 ceasefire because moderate opposition forces could suffer irreversible losses in northern and southern Syria before it ever takes hold. Defense Secretary Ash Carter, meanwhile, says NATO military authorities have been ordered to draw up plans for how the alliance could help shut down illegal migration and people smuggling across the Aegean Sea. Three NATO allies—Turkey, Germany, and Greece—requested alliance participation in an international effort to help end Europe's gravest migration crisis since World War II.