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Trump’s Mission Creep in Syria

The U.S. military presence in Syria is set to continue indefinitely [1]:

The Trump administration is expanding its goals in Syria beyond routing the Islamic State to include a political settlement of the country’s civil war, a daunting and potentially open-ended commitment that could draw the United States into conflict with both Syria and Iran.

The U.S. already has at least 2,000 troops [2] in Syria, and that number is likely to keep growing as the U.S. entangles itself more deeply in that country. An open-ended deployment in the territory of an unfriendly government that is supported by Iran would seem to be a recipe for a pointless and easily avoidable conflict. At best, it is a waste of resources and manpower in a place where the U.S. has little or nothing at stake. At worst, it is the start of a steadily expanding mission that will embroil the U.S. in yet another futile war. That will do nothing to make the U.S. or its allies more secure, and it could contribute to further instability in the region.

The justification for this continued presence is bizarre:

An abrupt U.S. withdrawal could complete Assad’s sweep of Syrian territory and help guarantee his political survival — an outcome that would constitute a win for Iran, his close ally.

To avoid that outcome, U.S. officials say they plan to maintain a U.S. troop presence in northern Syria — where the Americans have trained and assisted the SDF against the Islamic State — and establish new local governance, apart from the Assad government, in those areas.

In other words, the U.S. needs to keep American soldiers in harm’s way out of fear that the government of Syria might reestablish control over the rest of its own territory. That is so ridiculous that it can make sense only in the context of our warped foreign policy discourse. There is no discernible American security interest that demands that the U.S. keep part of Syria from being returned to the control of its government. It is certainly not the responsibility of our military to “establish new local governance” inside Syria. The real reason for the open-ended mission seems to be to compete with Iran for influence inside the territory of its ally, and that is as unnecessary as it is foolish.

It almost goes without saying that a U.S. military presence in Syria for any purpose has no legal justification whatsoever and has not had any for the last three years. Congress has never authorized military action there against ISIS or pro-regime forces, the Syrian government has never given the U.S. permission to operate on its territory, and our military presence there has absolutely nothing to do with self-defense. Keeping U.S. forces in Syria for years to come is the very definition of mission creep. Congress should insist on the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria as soon as possible.

7 Comments (Open | Close)

7 Comments To "Trump’s Mission Creep in Syria"

#1 Comment By Christian Chuba On November 29, 2017 @ 12:36 pm

The funny thing is that our brilliant Foreign Policy Establishment used to say that we had to topple Assad because he was unable to govern Syria. Now they are worried that he will do just that.

#2 Comment By craigsummers On November 29, 2017 @ 1:39 pm

Mr. Larison

“…..It almost goes without saying that a U.S. military presence in Syria for any purpose has no legal justification whatsoever and has not had any for the last three years. Congress has never authorized military action there against ISIS or pro-regime forces, the Syrian government has never given the U.S. permission to operate on its territory, and our military presence there has absolutely nothing to do with self-defense……”

One reason that the US should stay is to protect the Syrian Kurds which did the dirty work of defeating ISIS. The Kurds are certainly not allies with Assad – and Assad (along with Turkey) can turn his attention toward defeating the Kurds now that the country is mostly under his control (with help from, Hezbollah, Iran and Russia).

Why throw the Syrian Kurds under the bus? The US should stay and negotiate a political settlement.

#3 Comment By Christian Chuba On November 29, 2017 @ 2:39 pm

I find that the disappearance of Al Qaeda from N. Syria by the western press. Is this a tacit admission that they are our partners? At the very least we have made a public announcement that they are not our enemies because we have declared ‘mission accomplished’.

Assad will clear the deck of HTS (Al Qaeda’s latest incarnation) he will make some federalized arrangement with the Kurds, and then hold national elections that he will win. The only thing that can mess things up is us of course, by promising the Kurds something better and if they fall for it.

#4 Comment By EliteCommInc. On November 29, 2017 @ 8:21 pm

“An abrupt U.S. withdrawal could complete Assad’s sweep of Syrian territory and help guarantee his political survival — an outcome that would constitute a win for Iran, his close ally.”

I am confused. it has been my understanding that Syria is a sovereign state and as such has the right to enforce her territorial boundaries.

We have no valid grounds to be in country and should ensure the exit of the rebels or their repatriation and depart. No that does not mean we should import into the US.

#5 Comment By furbo On November 30, 2017 @ 7:19 am

Afghanistan (been there twice): I understand the military mission there. It was complete a year or so after it began. The current prospect – building a western friendly democracy from a tribal society is a fools errand…but leaving would be a national embarrassment – so, got it.

Iraq (been there once):Given the intel as it was understood at the time – Ok, legitimate. To do it on the cheap was foolish. While Pres. Bush bears the responsibility, the fault lies with Sec Rumsfeld who refused to commit sufficient troop strength to provide security post hostilities (against the advice of GEN Shinseki, the army Chief of Staff) and Paul Bremmer who foolishly and in contradiction of prior plans disbanded the Iraqi Army.

Syria: Is a dictatorship, brutal to opposition but otherwise fairly well governed under the Assad’s. They’re a Russian client state…yes, have been for decades and the world still spins on it’s axis. They’re not bothering Israel or creating problems for Turkey, a NATO ally and who knows what a post Assad regime would look like….certainly not a western democracy. Why…what vital national interests compel us to commit military force in Syria. Why is a destabilized Syria in ANYONE’s interests? Let Mr. Assad put his country back together again if he can. He’ll be far more effective at keeping radical islamists down because its in his interests to do so and he has access to tools that we do not. Remaining there is stupid on a stick

#6 Comment By craigsummers On November 30, 2017 @ 10:21 am

Turbo

“……Syria: Is a dictatorship, brutal to opposition but otherwise fairly well governed under the Assad’s……”

“Brutal to opposition” doesn’t exactly go with governs fairly well. You cannot be governing “fairly well” if you are crushing a democratic movement with your military. Of course, maybe I am just missing something on what defines good governance.

#7 Comment By Larry OBrien On December 4, 2017 @ 11:33 am

The Kurd’s have been our friend since the beginning of the Iraq war. They are ACTIVELY opposed by almost all others in the region — especially Turkey (who has cut the Kurdish nation in half). They have born the brunt of the fight against ISIS and by our withdrawal, we sentence them to a dismal future. The LEAST we can do is to remain “in position” to support them until a ‘workable’ solution is obtained for their survival.