US Reinforcing Troops Buildup at Iraq’s Border with Syria’s al-Tanf

TEHRAN (FNA)- The US Army has sent a massive military convoy to its controlled regions in Western Iraq just behind the border with Syria at al-Tanf crossing, local sources reported.

“A massive US military convoy comprising military vehicles, artillery canons and heavy weapons has been dispatched to Iraq’s Western border with the US-controlled al-Tanf region,” local and military sources in al-Anbar province in Western Iraq reported.

Meantime, the Turkish Anatoly news agency quoted the sources as saying that the military equipment has been sent from Ain al-Assad military base in al-Baghdadi region West of al-Ramadi to al-Tanf border crossing with Syria through highway.

In a relevant development in late January, the US Foreign Policy magazine quoted informed sources as saying that the United States is reportedly planning to keep some of its forces in a military base in Southeastern Syria despite a total withdrawal ordered by President Donald Trump.

“Given the strategic importance of the al-Tanf garrison, near the Iraqi border, the US government mulls keeping at least some troops in the region,” the sources told the daily.

A source said that the only “logical purpose” al-Tanf serves is to let Washington “monitor and disrupt” the alleged flow of Iranian military advisers, adding, “Honestly, you could not contrive a different military mission.”

The other source stated that the move allows American soldiers claim self-defense in striking Iranian military advisers, among others in the area.

“When they come through, we’ve claimed, I think reasonably, that they’ve been threatening either US forces or partner forces,” he stressed.

However, keeping troops in al-Tanf goes against Trump’s pullout order. It could also raise legal issues for the Trump administration as the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force permits the use of force against non-state militant groups, not nation states.

Trump announced the plan to withdraw all 2,000 American forces from Syria in December 2018 amid preparations by Turkey to launch an operation against Washington-backed Kurdish militants in Northern Syria.

His abrupt move sparked concern among officials in Washington, prompting Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to step down in protest.

The planned pullout also raised worries among the anti-Damascus Kurds operating in Northern Syria and left them feeling abandoned by Washington.

The vast majority of US troops are operating in Northeastern Syria while only over 200 of them are concentrated in al-Tanf.