by Willy B
Trump may have vacillated on the time line for the US military withdrawal from Syria but the available evidence suggests that he is determined that it will happen. At the same time, elements of the US national security establishment seem equally determined that it not happen. The latest example of this is an article in Foreign Policy claiming that the Pentagon is planning to stay in Al Tanf despite Trump's order. "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," one former senior U.S. military commander told FP.
But it isn't just the base at Tanf, but also the 55 km exclusion zone around it which gives the US military, there, the color of self defense, should Syrian or other hostile forces enter it. FP doesn't explain how illegally occupying territory in another country gives the U.S. military the right to self defense. Nonetheless, FP does note, at least, that there are legal problems with the continued U.S. military presence there. 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," one source said. "Honestly, you could not contrive a different military mission," the source said.
And here's the other problem: "Has the president actually approved that? All of his statements are to the contrary," the U.S. government source said.