Some U.S. troops may remain in Syria at a remote U.S. base to help oppose Iranian activity, according to a new report.

Although President Trump said last month that the Islamic State had been defeated and called for the withdrawal of troops in Syria, officials claim that the government’s current draw-down proposal would keep at least some U.S. troops at the remote base known as the al-Tanf garrison, Foreign Policy reports.

While most of the 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria are stationed in northeast Syria, the troops at al-Tanf are further east and would be the last to depart Syria under the most recent plan. The base is important because it helps counter Iran’s goal for a “Shiite Crescent,” where a stretch of land could run from Iran to Lebanon and could give Iran the ability to target Israel.

“Al-Tanf is a critical element in the effort to prevent Iran from establishing a ground line of communications from Iran through Iraq through Syria to southern Lebanon in support of Lebanese Hezbollah,” a former senior U.S. military commander told Foreign Policy.

The area also includes a stretch of land where U.S. troops are permitted to counter Iranian forces through self-defense, since the U.S. is legally not authorized to attack state actors like Iran unless Iranian forces lash out first.

But there is some ambiguity surrounding whether it would be legal for the U.S. to remain in al-Tanf, given that the primary purpose would be to oppose Iran and not ISIS. The Obama and Trump administrations have said their presence in Syria is authorized under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists, which permits the president to use military force against those responsible for the 9/11 attacks and associated forces like ISIS.

But Trump wants the troops out of Syria, and the Pentagon was tight-lipped when pressed on keeping troops in al-Tanf. A Pentagon spokesman said that it continues to address a withdrawal from Syria, and did not disclose specific details pertaining to the plan.

“We are focused on a deliberate, coordinated withdrawal from Syria. For operational security reasons, we are not going to discuss timelines or specific movements,” Pentagon spokesman Cmdr. Sean Robertson told Foreign Policy.

Source » washingtonexaminer