Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley visited US troops in Syria on Saturday in an effort to justify the continued US war and occupation in the country, marking the first time he traveled to the country while serving as the US’s top general.
The Syrian government condemned Milley’s visit as Damascus is opposed to the US presence in the country. The Syrian Foreign Ministry said the visit was a “flagrant violation of the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
The US has about 900 troops in eastern Syria and backs the Kurdish-led SDF, allowing Washington to control about one-third of the country’s territory. The area that’s under US control is where most of Syria’s oil fields are, depriving Damascus of vital resources.
The US military maintains it’s in Syria to fight the remnants of ISIS, but the occupation is also part of Washington’s economic campaign against Damascus. The US has also put Syria under crushing economic sanctions, although a 180-day exemption was issued in the wake of a devastating earthquake that allows transactions related to relief efforts.
Milley said Saturday that he believes the fight against ISIS is worth the risk of maintaining a presence in Syria. But the Syrian government and its allies are sworn enemies of ISIS, so if the US withdrew from the country, the fight against the terror group would continue.
The US occupation of eastern Syria risks sparking a wider war in the region as Russia also has a military presence in the country. US bases in Syria frequently come under rocket attack, and last month four US soldiers were wounded in a raid against ISIS.
Following the raid where four US troops were injured, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) introduced a War Powers Resolution that would direct President Biden to withdraw from Syria. Gaetz released a statement that criticized Milley’s trip and said the resolution would be voted on soon.
“General Mark Milley has traveled to Syria to justify America’s continued involvement in a Middle Eastern civil war,” Gaetz wrote on Twitter. “Next week, my legislation to end US involvement in Syria will be up for a vote. If General Milley wants this war so bad, he should explain what we are fighting for and why it is worth American treasure and blood. An America First foreign policy demands realism, rational thought, and seriousness.”