Continued US Military Presence in Syria Raises Risk of Wider Regional War

© AFP 2022 / DELIL SOULEIMANArmed men in uniform identified by Syrian Democratic forces as US special operations forces walk in the village of Fatisah in the northern Syrian province of Raqa on May 25, 2016
Armed men in uniform identified by Syrian Democratic forces as US special operations forces walk in the village of Fatisah in the northern Syrian province of Raqa on May 25, 2016 - Sputnik International
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The continued US military presence in Syria, three times larger than previously reported, risks setting off a wider war in the region, analysts told Sputnik.

WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — According to the Defense Manpower Data Center's quarterly report from September, there were 1,720 American troops in Syria, three times as many as the 503 troops in Syria that US military officials have told reporters.

REGIONAL CLASHES

According to the Russian Defense Ministry, Syrian army units are pursuing and eliminating groups of terrorists in the Euphrates River valley and its west bank will soon be completely liberated by government troops, which will make it possible to complete the operation to defeat the remaining fighters from the Islamic State terrorist group (Daesh).

However, the United States has warned the Syrian Army not to move past the Euphrates.

"I think that US intervention will continue and that there's an outside chance of things really getting out of hand if Syrian and US-backed forces clash east of the Euphrates," political commentator and author Dan Lazare told Sputnik.

Lazare cautioned that a crisis could erupt unexpectedly because Israel and Saudi Arabia, the main US allies in the region felt emboldened by the growing direct US military presence.

This Saturday, April. 29, 2017 still taken from video, shows an American soldier looking out of an armored vehicle in the northern village of Darbasiyah, Syria - Sputnik International
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Although the United States has now admitted to deploying more than 1,700 troops in Syria against the wishes of the Damascus government, it was not at all clear what they were meant to do, or what US strategic goals in the country were, Lazare cautioned.

White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders had acknowledged the continuing US military presence in Syria, but her statement had only confirmed the confusion and contradictions surrounding US policy there, Lazare remarked.

"If you read Sarah Sanders' statement carefully, you'll see that it's filled with all kinds of hedges and qualifications," he said.

Sanders had acknowledged that while the US was making progress in destroying Daesh, "the job is still on-going," he said.

Sanders had also insisted that even though the United States was in a position to stop providing military equipment to certain groups now that the battle in Syria was winding down, they did not commit to ending all such aid, Lazare noted.

"If the US is still committed to regime change, then it's a good bet that a US military presence of some sort will remain in place," Lazare said. "My guess is that Trump is genuinely confused. He wants to make nice with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, he wants to crush IS, and he doesn't care much one way or the other whether [Syrian President Bashar] Assad stays or goes."

Trump has begun to grasp that Assad is an ally of Iran, which he regards as public enemy number one. Given the powerful forces that have mobilized against Assad, that means that he [Trump] can never say absolutely no to those who want him [Assad] to go," he said.

TRUMP, POLICYMAKERS CONFUSED ON GOALS

University of Louvain philosopher and political commentator Professor Jean Bricmont told Sputnik that the US continuing troop presence in Syria reflected confusion rather than clarity of purpose among Washington policymakers.

"As usual, Americans cannot just accept defeat, pack and go home. But what are they going to do with these troops?" he asked.

In this Monday, Nov. 6, 2017 photo, U.S. Marines prepare to build a military site during a sandstorm in western Anbar, Iraq. The US-led coalition's newest outpost in the fight against the Islamic State group is in this dusty corner of western Iraq near the border with Syria where several hundred American Marines operate close to the battlefront, a key factor in the recent series of swift victories against the extremists. - Sputnik International
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The US forces in Syria were not numerous enough to wage an all-out war against the Syrian army. However, it remained difficult to attack them directly, because of the ability of the United States for reprisal, Bricmont observed.

US policymakers will probably "play the Kurdish card," which would alienate Turkey, which used to be a closer ally.

Eventually some kind of agreement between the Kurds and the Syrian government would eventually be found. So, there would be nothing left for those troops but to pack and go home, he predicted.

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