Syrian Dilemma for President Joe Biden


Elizabeth Boyle, Staff

Image of one of the many wreckages throughout Syria.

As President Biden begins his third month in office, we continue to see shifts in international relations. This week there has been debate about President Biden’s position on the U.S. troops in Syria. 

            Currently, the U.S. has approximately 900 troops on a military outpost in a natural gas field in eastern Syria. Syria has been in a Civil War since 2011. The war is between the Ba’athist Syrian Arab Republic, which is led by President Bashar al Assad, and various foreign and domestic allies who oppose the Syrian government. In 2016 the United Nations estimated that 400,000 Syrians had been displaced or fled the country. The Syrian Army is conducting its own fight on behalf of Assad with the help of Russia and Iran. Because of them, Syria is supplied with warplanes and drones.

            Those who believe the U.S. troops should be removed, such as former U.S. ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, think the U.S. is wasting resources. Ford argues that the Islamic State is contained and is not posing a threat to Europe or the U.S. He argues the Arab population now resents the U.S. alliance with the Kurdish militia. The Kurds are an Iranic ethnic group native to a mountainous region of Western Asia known as Kurdistan. Those who want the U.S. troops to stay would argue that the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Assad’s primary domestic antagonists, have a portion of land outside of President Assad’s control. They have created stability in that area while the country continues to fight a decade-long war.If the U.S. troops were to be removed from Syria it could cause a security issue that the Islamic State could take advantage of. The stability created by the SDF is at risk. 

When President Obama was in office, he primarily used political negotiations in an effort to remove Assad. He also sent a small contingent of U.S. troops to help train the Kurds and Syrian rebels. When President Trump was in office, he increased U.S. forces in Syria to fight the Islamic State, and almost withdrew troops after the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr Baghdadi and the defeat of the Islamic State as a cohesive fighting force. Trump was advised against it, and agreed to keep U.S. forces present to work with the SDF to secure oil fields. In February 2021, President Biden ordered an airstrike on a camp in Syria near the Iraq border in retaliation for an Iranian-backed militia attack on a U.S. base in Iraq, during which a U.S. civilian contractor was killed.

As President Biden enters his third month in office and continues to expand the U.S. international relations, it will be interesting to see what he chooses to do moving forward.

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