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US has completed another airstrip in northeastern Syria (Al-Malikiyah District)

The U.S. may be headed down a similar path in Syria as it was in the lead-up to the Iraq War in 2003, a conflict that vastly changed the dynamics of the region and entrenched the Pentagon in the country to this day.

In a press briefing following a meeting of the so-called United Nations “small group” on Syria—the U.S., Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Kingdom— U.S. special envoy James Jeffrey outlined what many had criticized as a vague approach to Washington’s true goals in the conflict. Since 2015, the U.S. has led a coalition tasked with bombing the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), but officials have said they did not plan on removing the military until forces allegedly under Iranian control were withdrawn and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was ousted.

“The United States forces are in Syria for one mission, which is the enduring defeat of ISIS/Daesh, that is a military mission that flows from congressional authorization in 2001 against terror post-9/11. That’s the military mission of our military there,” Jeffrey told reporters.

“When we say we’re going to be present, not forever, in Syria, but present until our conditions—enduring defeat of ISIS … the withdrawal of Iranian-commanded forces from the entirety of Syria and an irreversible political process—we’re saying the United States as a whole,” he added. “The president, as the commander-in-chief and the leader of our foreign policy has various options that involve the military, that involve our forces, remember we were present not in northern Iraq, but over northern Iraq in Operation Northern Watch for 13 years.”


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