Pentagon officials have been indicating for quite some time that they have no intention of leaving Syria, but Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, on Wednesday, finally set out the new US policy goals aimed at justifying what he described as an “open-ended” deployment.
Instead of a “counter-terror” operation focused on ISIS, the US presence is now also intended to generally fight against Iranian influence, to facilitate refugee returns to Syria and, most scandalously, to “ensure the departure of the Assad regime.”
The US has long insisted on regime change in Syria, but never before suggested that their military deployment in the country was anything to do with that, let alone that the US might try to impose regime change militarily.
With the legal justification for the US deployment in Syria already shaky, at best, with no authorization from the Syrian government, re-positioning the war away from ISIS and toward a war with the Syrian government and its allies makes an open-ended deployment even less tenable.
While US invasions trying to impose regime change are nothing unfamiliar in this day and age, this would be a particularly bizarre variant of that, with the US getting the troops into the country first then announcing the goal long after the fact.