Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said on Tuesday that US military is in Syria for the long haul, judging by their efforts on the eastern bank of Euphrates river.
“The US pledged that their only aim was to repel terrorists from Syria, to defeat the so-called ‘Islamic State,’ but, despite all their claims, despite President Trump’s claims, the US is actually positioning itself on the Eastern bank of the Euphrates and have no intention of leaving,” Lavrov said.
Lavrov stated that there are several nations whose only agenda is the disintegration of Syria and that the road to economic recovery will be a hard one unless all foreign troops leave the country. Russia has been actively supporting Bashir al-Assad’s regime by providing air cover, training, and weapons and often even infantry support in heavy fighting that has occurred in Syria in the last several years. Syria hosts the only major Russian naval base outside its territory and is seen by Kremlin as a key ally in allowing Russia power projecting capabilities in the Mediterranean.
Earlier this month President Trump announced that he is planning to withdraw all United States forces from Syria, a statement that seemed contradictory to what his closest advisors, including senior Pentagon and State Department officials, who all claimed that the US will keep a strong presence in the region.
Turning 180 degrees on a previous statement is nothing new for Mr. Trump, but this announcement confused even his allies in the Congress, which doesn’t share President’s views on the Middle East situation.
US military has been present in Syria since at least 2014, where it has been leading a coalition of nations in a fight against ISIS. Now that ISIS threat is mostly eliminated, US forces have been positioning themselves on the east bank of the Euphrates river in order to protect their Kurdish allies from attacks by regime forces and Iranian-backed militias.