US Pullout From Syria Could Leave Troops at al-Tanf to ‘Challenge Iran’

Legality of keeping base in Syria is likely to face challenge

As US officials continue to reiterate their intention to withdraw from Syria, but it seems that is coming with some caveats. Now, reports are that the end vision is to keep a few hundred US troops at the al-Tanf base, just to “challenge Iran.”

On the Iraq-Syria-Jordan border, al-Tanf was originally meant to prop up rebels on the Jordan border. Ultimately, it just became an excuse for the US to attack Shi’ite militias that got “too close” to the base, generally presented as pro-Iranian forces.

Making that the new face of US operations in Syria is liable to fuel more legal challenges. When troops were there to fight ISIS, the legal basis was nominally the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF). There is no AUMF for confronting Iran in a country where the government never authorized the US to be in the first place.

Though President Trump has presented himself as determined to deliver on a promised pullout, the rest of his administration seems to be constantly presenting the pullout as slower, more deliberate, and less complete. What ultimately happens remains to be seen, but there are clearly reasons to doubt that the US presence is really going to be ending in a timely fashion.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is senior editor of