- The Washington Times - Monday, January 27, 2020

A bipartisan pair of Senators are pressing the Pentagon to publicly share more information on the U.S.’ mission in Syria amid confusion over the continued presence of American troops in the country.

In a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Sens. Mitt Romney, Utah Republican, and Catherine Cortez Masto, Nevada Democrat, are seeking “further clarity” about the ongoing deployment.

“Until now, the administration has not articulated a coherent and consistent strategy to Congress,” they wrote.

The letter comes roughly two months after Mr. Esper confirmed that the U.S. would keep a battalion-sized complement of troops in Syria to fight Islamic State, despite President Trump’s original order from October that indicated all 2,000 U.S. troops would be leaving Syria.

Mr. Trump’s plan to withdraw American forces from Syria sparked an intense wave of bipartisan backlash, as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle pointed to the fallout of abandoning Kurdish allies who have helped fight ISIS.

The White House later said the roughly 800 troops that stayed in Syria would continue efforts to work with the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces and protect key oil fields in the region from falling into the hands of ISIS, Russian forces, or other actors — a mission that appeared to change the U.S.’ intentions in the region.

The Senators are now calling for answers on the U.S. continued presence “given the confusion over the mission of U.S. troops in Syria, particularly amid heightened regional tensions and strain on counter-ISIS operations, as well as the lack of clarity over how the mission connects to the administration’s articulated strategic aims.”

• Lauren Toms can be reached at lmeier@washingtontimes.com.

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