White House: attacks in Syria 'won't deter' US mission

Saturday, April 1, 2023

US forces firing a howitzer at Mission Support Site Conoco, Syria in June 2021 .
Image: Trevor Franklin.

The Executive Office of the President of the United States said Monday the nation's Syria mission will persist despite strikes on US bases.

United States National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said: "We're not going to be deterred [...] by these attacks from these militant groups."

On March 23, a drone attacked a Coalition base close to Al-Hasakah; the US alleged the vehicle was Iranian-made, killed a US contractor, and wounded five US soldiers and another contractor. The US announced it had launched air strikes on Syrian groups affiliated with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps the same day.

A US official told CNN on March 25 two aerial attacks the previous day on Coalition forces at the bases of Mission Support Site Conoco and Green Village injured one US soldier, who was in stable condition then, and damaged a structure, respectively.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK organization, reported on March 25 the US strikes killed three Syrian government soldiers and 11 Syrian and five non-Syrian government-aligned fighters.

US President Joe Biden said the same day: "Make no mistake: the United States does not – does not – seek conflict with Iran. But be prepared for us to forcefully protect our people [...] That's exactly what happened last night [...] We're going to continue to keep up our efforts to counter terrorist threats in the region."

On Sunday, the Syrian foreign ministry disputed the US assessment of the targets of the latter's March 23 airstrikes and stated Syria would "end the American occupation" of the nation. The Iranian foreign ministry released a statement alleging the US targeted "civilian sites" and denouncing the strikes.

The US' Operation Inherent Resolve in Syria, which operates in tandem with the international Coalition, began in 2015, and has spanned multiple presidencies. In October of that year, the US helped establish the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which it continues to support with training and arms.

Al Jazeera reported the US, after its withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021, assured SDF leaders it would not also withdraw from Syria. Kino Gabriel, previously a spokesperson for the SDF, told Al Jazeera: "They [the Americans] were very strong [sic] to make it clear that this is not the same as Afghanistan."

In August, the Syrian government demanded the US withdraw its troops; its foreign ministry said: "The American side must immediately and unconditionally withdraw its military forces that are present on the territory of Syria illegally, refrain from stealing and smuggling Syrian oil and wheat, and lift the cover and protection for armed separatist groups and armed terrorist groups that are present in the illegal American military base 'Al-Tanf.'"

On March 8, the US House of Representatives voted 321–103 against a resolution to order the withdrawal of the approximately 900 US troops deployed to Syria, mostly to the south and east of the country.

The resolution was sponsored by Representative Matt Gaetz, who said: "Congress has never authorized kinetic participation of U.S. Armed Forces in Syria."

Representative Gregory Meeks argued: "This measure forces a premature end to our mission at a critical time for our efforts."