Friday, January 19, 2018
This week, the Trump administration announced that the United States is committing to an extended military presence in Syria.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said about 2,000 U.S. troops will remain indefinitely in Syria and laid out American military goals there that go far beyond the defeat of the Islamic State and other extremist organizations. U.S. forces will also be there to contain Iranian influence and help bring about a peace agreement that sees President Bashar al-Assad removed from power, Tillerson said.
Any observer of the crisis will know these are not simple or quick tasks, and Tillerson conspicuously failed to set out any time limits for removing U.S. troops. As such, it's tempting to draw an unspoken conclusion from the announcement: America's "forever war" has gotten yet another indefinite lease on life.
Syria now looks like just the latest chapter in a war on terror that has already lasted nearly 17 years -- starting in Afghanistan and spreading to Iraq, Pakistan and many other countries -- and shows no signs of stopping. One independent estimate from last year argued that these conflicts have cost U.S. taxpayers $5.6 trillion; the human cost, of which there was a fresh reminder on Thursday thanks to a new report from conflict monitor Airwars, is inestimable but devastating.
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