American forces remain in Syria without a clear goal in sight, as the conflict there nears its 10-year anniversary, and with Russia having emerged as the principal guarantor of security in the war-torn country, according to insiders.
In an article
published last week, Newsweek said American and American-supported
Syrian officials feel disillusioned about America’s goals in the
country. The website cited an anonymous senior United States
intelligence official who described the US military mission there as “a
Officially, the goal of the US Department
of Defense’s mission in Syria is to “ensure the enduring defeat” of the
Islamic State. On the political level, the US seeks the removal of
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the departure of all Iranian and
Iranian-backed forces from the country. Last year, however, US President
Donald Trump seemed to suddenly change the Pentagon’s mission, by telling reporters
that the US military was in Syria only to secure access to the oil and
natural gas fields that lay in the country’s northeast. He repeated that statement in August of this year.
This goal appears to have been adopted by
the Pentagon as its new mission. Currently what remains of the US
military presence in Syria is concentrated around a cluster of oil and
gas fields in the northeastern part of the country. Sources told
Newsweek that the US troops feel “stranded” and “forgotten” in Syria,
and are virtually surrounded by numerically dominant Russian and Iranian
forces. US allies in the area are shifting their alliances and looking
to Russia, seeing Washington as a non-dependable actor.
Meanwhile, Moscow and Tehran have assumed
leading roles in bringing rival forces to the table, while also
fighting what is left of the Islamic State. Several meetings between
representatives from rival factions, including the Assad government,
pro-Turkish militias, and the opposition Syrian Democratic Forces, have
taken place under Russian tutelage in the past year. The US has not
participated in these negotiations, said Newsweek.