Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Our Illegal War in Syria Goes On

Leaving behind a residual force puts them at risk for no good reason.

The illegal U.S. military presence in Syria will continue with reduced numbers:

The White House said on Thursday that it plans to leave about 200 American troops in Syria, signaling a partial retreat from President Trump’s announcement in December that he would withdraw all 2,000 forces after what he described as a victory over the Islamic State.

Keeping such a small number of troops in another country in violation of both U.S. and international law makes no sense. There are too few of them to be of any real use, but there are enough to perpetuate an unnecessary mission that serves no U.S. interests. Leaving behind a residual force puts them at risk for no good reason. As long as any U.S. troops illegally remain in Syria, they are being potentially put in harm’s way without Congressional authorization or any other legal justification for their mission. The 200 troops who will remain are being described as a “small peacekeeping group,” but they aren’t going to be there serving as peacekeepers and there aren’t nearly enough of them to be effective in such a role in any case. The NYT article makes the obvious point:

The official said the American forces would provide logistics, intelligence and surveillance to allies and would relay necessary information for directing airstrikes to targets, roles that have little to do with peacekeeping.

These troops are being kept in Syria to continue fighting an open-ended, unauthorized war. There aren’t very many of them, but there are just enough to make the administration’s claim of a full withdrawal into a joke.