U.S. troop presence in Syria now at its highest. But how long will they remain for and why?

Time reports: The Trump Administration is intensifying America’s involvement in the ground war in Syria, having announced on March 9 that it is sending 400 more troops to join the fight against ISIS there.

The new deployment of Army Rangers and a U.S. Marine artillery unit raises fresh questions about the scope and timeline of the U.S. mission in Syria, where the number of American troops is now approaching a high of around a thousand (Washington has not disclosed an exact number). The U.S. is also sending another 2,500 troops to a staging base in Kuwait, awaiting possible deployment to Iraq or Syria.

Recent comments from U.S. officials suggest that the military is contemplating a deployment in Syria that extends far beyond the defeat of ISIS as a conventional armed force. In his testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 9, Army General Joseph Votel, who leads the U.S. Central Command, said additional forces may be needed in the future to help with “stability and other aspects of the operations.” The Pentagon is also considering lifting a formal cap of roughly 500 U.S. troops permitted on the ground in Syria, a limitation imposed by former President Barack Obama, according to the Washington Post.

The near doubling of the U.S. military deployment in eastern Syria, along with Votel’s comments, suggest a shift toward a more open-ended commitment of forces to Syria, echoing the prolonged U.S. military presence in Iraq or Afghanistan. But the escalation is also prompting calls to define the objectives of the mission over the long term in order to avoid a costly occupation both in terms of lives and resources. [Continue reading…]

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