2,400 Americans are there ostensibly to fight ISIS. But after Sunday’s attacks, they may become the reason we fight Iran

by Paul R. Pillar, Responsible Statecraft

The drone attack on Sunday that killed three U.S. service members at an outpost in Jordan near the Syria border is more likely to increase rather than decrease U.S. military involvement in the region.

This is unfortunate, and doubly so coming at a time when the Biden administration was showing signs of considering a withdrawal of the 900 U.S. troops in Syria and 2,500 in Iraq. Just last week, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin intimated that a joint U.S.-Iraqi review might lead to a drawdown of at least some of the troops in Iraq. Other reporting points to discussions within the administration about possibly removing the troops now in Syria.

us troops stationed in the desert

It is unclear why the administration chose this time to consider what was already a long-overdue withdrawal of these troops. The answer probably involves the upsurge in regional violence stemming from Israel’s devastating assault on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and associated anger against the United States for its backing of Israel. Since the Israeli assault began, U.S. military installations in Iraq have been attacked more than 60 times and those in Syria more than 90 times.

The attacks underscore how much these residual U.S. deployments have entailed costs and risks far out of proportion to any positive gains they can achieve. They have been sitting-duck targets within easy reach of militias and other elements wishing to make a violent anti-U.S. statement. Even without deaths, U.S. service members have paid a price, such as in the form of traumatic brain injuries from missile attacks.

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