Informed sources told Foreign Policy magazine on Friday that given the strategic importance of the al-Tanf garrison, near the Iraqi border, the US government mulls keeping at least some troops in the region.
A source said that the only “logical purpose” al-Tanf serves is to let Washington “monitor and disrupt” the alleged flow of Iranian military advisers, adding, “Honestly, you could not contrive a different military mission.”
The other source stated that the move allows American soldiers claim self-defense in striking Iranian military advisers, among others in the area.
“When they come through, we’ve claimed, I think reasonably, that they’ve been threatening either US forces or partner forces,” he stressed.
However, keeping troops in al-Tanf goes against Trump's pullout order. It could also raise legal issues for the Trump administration as the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force permits the use of force against non-state militant groups, not nation states.
Trump announced the plan to withdraw all 2,000 American forces from Syria in December 2018 amid preparations by Turkey to launch an operation against Washington-backed Kurdish militants in Northern Syria.
His abrupt move sparked concern among officials in Washington, prompting Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to step down in protest.
The planned pullout also raised worries among the anti-Damascus Kurds operating in Northern Syria and left them feeling abandoned by Washington.
The vast majority of US troops are operating in Northeastern Syria while only over 200 of them are concentrated in al-Tanf.
Last week, the founder of Blackwater - now called Academi - stated that American troops in Syria could be replaced with mercenaries.
Erik Prince, who founded the infamous private military company, told Fox Business that using private contractors would allow Trump to end "forever wars" and protect US allies against what he called Iranian military advisers and Syrian army soldiers.