A US army engineer works with a member of the SDF to help maintain a bridge near Raqqa in July. Photo: Sgt. Mitchell Ryan/US Army
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – US troops in Syria supporting the international coalition to defeat ISIS have no right to be there according to the foreign ministry, while Washington has promised “to continue until ISIS is extinguished.”
“The presence of the US forces or any foreign military presence in Syria without the consent of the Syrian government constitutes an act of aggression and an attack on the sovereignty of the Syrian Arab Republic," Syria's state-run news agency quoted an unnamed source in the Foreign Ministry as saying on Tuesday.
The report published by SANA called the presence a "gross violation of the Charter and principles of the United Nations."
Troops from the US Marines, Army, and other branches "advise and assist" vetted local partners who comprise the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). They have worked to help clear ISIS from some 50,442 square-kilometers of Syrian lands, according to coalition statistics provided to Rudaw English on Nov. 6.
"[T]his presence only leads to prolonging the crisis and further complicating it, and this is where the real goal of this US presence in Syria lies,” added the Syrian ministry.
The US-led coalition has cited UN Security Council Resolution 2254 to justify its presence in Syria. The resolution passed unanimously in 2015 and calls for "member states to prevent and suppress terrorist acts" specifically committed by ISIS, al-Nusra, al-Qaeda, among others.
The resolution also calls for a "political solution" for the Syrian civil war that has raged since 2011.
With ISIS militarily losing about 96 percent of the territory it once controlled in Syria and Iraq, according to the coalition, Russia, the United States, Turkey, and Jordan have agreed that only a political solution can resolve the civil war.
The United States has opposed the regime of Bashar al-Assad, while Russia, along with Iran, has backed the Syrian president.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and US President Donald Trump issued a joint statement on Saturday which recommitted them to a political solution through the UN-backed Geneva peace talks and confirmed a continued commitment to "open military channels" to allow US and Russian forces to deconflict in "continued" anti-ISIS efforts.
"They confirmed these efforts will be continued until the final defeat of ISIS is achieved," read the US statement.
Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also recommitted to a political solution in Syria after meeting in Sochi on Monday.
“We had an opportunity to discuss the latest developments about the Syrian conflict. We both agree that at the point we have reached there is now a basis for us to focus on political resolution,” read a statement from the Turkish presidency.
The United States has promised a continued presence in Syria until a political solution is met.
"[T]that's been our goal..." Mattis told reporters in the Pentagon on Monday. "Geneva is the place we want this to go for political reconciliation and a way ahead.”
"So that's our goal right now, to continue until ISIS is extinguished and the caliphate. [So they] don't just up and pull it right out and wonder why they come right back up..."
Mattis doubted Syrian reports that they have taken control of the ISIS stronghold of al-Boukamal on the border with Iraq.
He said he has heard the announcements, but "we weren't sure they had taken it."
ISIS regained control of most of the town, pushing the Syrian army out after regime forces declared they had taken the town.