Saturday, January 26, 2019

The US is Considering a Plan to Keep Troops at a Remote Base in Southeast Syria

So much for leaving Syria.

Despite President Donald Trump’s December pledge to withdraw all U.S. forces from Syria, the U.S. government is considering a plan to keep some troops in a remote U.S. base in southeastern Syria to counter Iranian activity, sources tell Foreign Policy.

The al-Tanf garrison, located near Syria’s eastern border with Jordan, was established to help local forces fight the Islamic State militant group. But the base, which sits along a potential Iranian supply route through Iraq to Syria, has also become a critical buttress for combating Iranian influence in the region, reports FP.

The significance is not just the strategic location of al-Tanf itself but also a 55-kilometer exclusion zone, about 34 miles around the garrison, that allows U.S. troops to claim self-defense in striking Iranian or other forces moving through that area, said one source close to the discussions. Legally, the United States does not have the authority to attack a state actor such as Iran unprovoked.

“When they come through, we’ve claimed, I think reasonably, that they’ve been threatening either U.S. forces or partner forces,” the source said.

But staying at al-Tanf could raise legal issues for the administration, said one U.S. government official. Experts have argued that the administration would be on shaky ground in using the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force—which authorizes the fight against nonstate militant groups such as the Islamic State or al Qaeda in Afghanistan—to justify maintaining a presence in Syria for any reason other than to fight the Islamic State.

The only “logical purpose” al-Tanf serves is to allow the United States to “monitor and disrupt the flow of Iranian-backed militias,” the first source said.

“Honestly, you could not contrive a different military mission,” a source told FP.

FP adds another potential problem is that staying at al-Tanf goes against the president’s initial orders—to withdraw all U.S. forces from Syria. The president has said his only reason for having U.S. troops in Syria is to fight the Islamic State.


1 comment:

  1. It's a bit tricky. On the face of it you would think that ISIS would want the US out of Syria. But since ISIS is an Israeli proxy, they would want the US to stay in Syria. I'm so confused.