Tanf: The U.S. military base dedicated to regime change in Syria

The Tanf military base is a lonely, desert oasis roughly 10 miles inside Syria near the Jordan border, and about 100 miles south of Palmyra.
Officially Tanf is where we train anti-ISIS "moderate" rebels, but since two weeks ago, the entire region is surrounded by pro-government forces. Any rebel fighter at Tanf would have to travel through government-controlled areas to fight ISIS.

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The base is in no danger from ISIS at all. So why did this recently happen?

The US military has moved its High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) from Jordan into southern Syria for the first time, positioning it near the US-Coalition training base at At Tanf, three US defense officials confirmed to CNN Tuesday.
HIMARS, a truck-mounted system which can fire missiles as far as 300 kilometers, represents a major boost to US combat power near At Tanf, a location that has come under the spotlight following a series of recent coalition strikes against pro-regime forces operating in the area.
..."We have increased our combat power in that area," US Col. Ryan Dillon told reporters at the Pentagon earlier this month.
"We have increased our presence and our footprint and prepared for any threat that is presented by the pro-regime forces," Dillon added.

Not only are we bringing advanced weaponry into Syria for the purpose of fighting pro-government forces, but we are "expanding our footprint".

Abu al-Atheer, military spokesman for the U.S.-backed Maghawir al-Thawra rebel group, told Reuters U.S. forces had spread from their initial location at Tanf to set up a second base at Zakf, around 60-70 km (40-50 miles) to the northeast.
...Abu al-Atheer said the U.S. special forces were now patrolling distances of up to 100 km from Tanf. He said more U.S. special forces were arriving at both the original base at Tanf and the new base at Zakf, and more weapons had been delivered to rebels.
"The (new) base was being studied for months but now it's an official base. It has been built and expanded and God willing will be in the next few days like the Tanf base," he told Reuters.

This looks like a creeping invasion to me.
US troops were never invited into Syria by the government in the first place and aren’t authorized to hold that base. We unilaterally declared a 34-mile radius surrounding the base a “deconfliction zone,” using this as the pretext for launching three separate airstrikes against militias aligned with the Damascus government.

Our official purpose there is to train anti-ISIS fighters, but the main group, Maghawir al-Thawra, is both anti-ISIS AND anti-regime. So you can see why the Assad government and his allies aren't very keen on this development.
What is remarkable is the near total lack of discussion and justification for these developments, as opposed to the much-ballyhooed U.S. air strike on the al-Shayrat airfield back in April.

Yet, even as Washington potentially stumbles into war, there has been little public explanation from the highest levels of government, scant media coverage, and virtually no congressional oversight. This is no way to handle what could potentially mutate into a vastly expanded American military intervention in the Middle East.
...These are all, of course, serious policy questions that demand serious deliberation. But it’s not clear that’s happening. Instead, the Trump administration appears to be blindly stumbling into this conflict with no public discussion of the consequences. All three military engagements have resulted from decisions made by U.S. commanders in-theater to protect the 150 U.S. troops when the Assad-regime and Iran-backed forces got too close. U.S. forces on the ground need to have the authority necessary to defend themselves. But at this point the lack of a clear policy is a major problem.

Trump is clearly trying to pick a fight with Iran, based on his rhetoric and the fact that all three military strikes were against Iranian-backed forces.

It's amazing how this situation can continue to spiral out of control towards an alarming new war, one much worse than the Iraq invasion, and everyone pretends it doesn't exist.

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I honestly don't understand this situation

The response signaled the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas is preparing for the dispute with its neighbors to drag on, after both sides stepped up efforts to win support from the U.S. over the past week. Yousef Al Otaiba, the U.A.E.’s envoy in Washington, said the Trump administration should consider moving its air base out of Qatar, the Associated Press reported, a decision that -- while extremely unlikely -- would leave Qatar without a significant insurance policy in the crisis.

The U.S. has around 10,000 troops in Qatar, as well as the forward headquarters of the military’s Central Command that’s conducting air campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria. The U.S. Department of Defense is likely to “resist very strongly” any suggestion of moving the Al Udaid base, according to Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, Middle East fellow at Rice University’s Baker Institute.

“Al Udaid offers the U.S. facilities that are, at the moment, unmatched in the Gulf, and cannot simply be replicated elsewhere, at least not overnight,’’ Ulrichsen said on June 6 in an email. Still, “moving the base would be a big blow for Qatar as having CENTCOM was an external security guarantee that has, for decades, underpinned Qatar’s regional security stance.”

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ggersh's picture

@gjohnsit and the basic question that now needs to asked regarding
any development irt the military is is trump calling the any
of the plays, or is he just a show piece coach?

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8 users have voted.

“We now live in a nation where doctors destroy health, lawyers destroy justice, universities destroy knowledge, governments destroy freedom, the press destroys information, religion destroys morals, and our banks destroy the economy.”

― Chris Hedges

dervish's picture

@ggersh and for now the Turks are using the Qatari base near al Wakra. There are no other tenants.

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3 users have voted.

"Obama promised transparency, but Assange is the one who brought it."

dervish's picture

@gjohnsit it looks like the UAE is doing the urging, not Qatar.

Al Udeid is going nowhere, and such talk is bluster. One thing that disturbs me greatly though, is that the Qatari Emir is scheduled to leave the country and meet with Macron in Paris next week. Leaving the country in a time of crisis is often a precursor to a coup.

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4 users have voted.

"Obama promised transparency, but Assange is the one who brought it."

for that Tanf garrison to even be there. What's seldom mentioned is that its very presence is totally illegal, that the primary objective of the fighters being trained there is to overthrow the Syrian government, not to fight ISIS as claimed, and that any clash with Russian troops inside the Syrian border could prove disastrous.

USG seems unwilling to recognize that Syria's borders rightfully belong to Syria, not to America, not to Britain, not to Jordan, and not to Saudi Arabia.

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11 users have voted.

native

snoopydawg's picture

@native
John Kerry is on record saying that Saudi Arabia told him that they would pay for it if our military overthrew Assad. I want to know how many of the troops know that this is why they are risking their lives for. One military member said he didn't want to train the rebels because he would feel responsible if they took their weapons and attacked America.

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8 users have voted.

The Democrats are beyond morally bankrupt. The Party’s very soul has been replaced with pure ratfuckery.

@snoopydawg Given the frequency of "insider" attacks, his concern seems justified.

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3 users have voted.

You keep using that word...

dervish's picture

@native for illegal activities in an illegal war, and the whole thing is being run, illegally, by the CIA and the Pentagon, as Congress and the President have abdicated their responsibilities there.

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9 users have voted.

"Obama promised transparency, but Assange is the one who brought it."

snoopydawg's picture

@dervish
h/t K4S
It's okay for this country to use it because it's EXCEPTIONAL by damn!

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6 users have voted.

The Democrats are beyond morally bankrupt. The Party’s very soul has been replaced with pure ratfuckery.

dervish's picture

@snoopydawg Assad used chemical weapons on his own people. Why is it ok for us to chemical weapons on them then?

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3 users have voted.

"Obama promised transparency, but Assange is the one who brought it."

snoopydawg's picture

@dervish
If it is bad when one person does something, it is just as bad when another person does it.
White phosphorus was used during the Iraq war as was depleted uranium, yet no one talked about that.
There have been babies born in Fallujah who have horrible birth defects and others have gotten very sick from it.
Congress recently voted for more sanctions on Russia for the exact same things that this country has done, so when is another country going to sanction it or do a regime change?
As I wrote, blatant hypocrisy.

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6 users have voted.

The Democrats are beyond morally bankrupt. The Party’s very soul has been replaced with pure ratfuckery.

snoopydawg's picture

right now to see if he thinks that this is a good idea for the base to be completed.
Why people set on killing other people ask for God's blessings is beyond me.
I think He was very clear on how He felt about killing each other.
Gee, what did He say? Oh yeah, "don't F'cking do it"!

Now that Trump has turned military decisions over to the generals, they are going to do whatever the f'ck they want.
Those poor civilians caught in the middle of this.
Thanks Barry. Go give another speech while Syrians are dying because of you.

About that air strike you mentioned, that was okay because it made Trump look more presidential, so it was okay. Looks after all are all that matters.

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7 users have voted.

The Democrats are beyond morally bankrupt. The Party’s very soul has been replaced with pure ratfuckery.

Steven D's picture

And we aren't fighting a war we're "training" rebels" but only the nice ones. Of course, one must do what one must do to protect the trainers, and everyone is entitled to self-defense, the regime in Syria kills babies with Sarin gas and - LOOK OVER THERE !!!! RUSSIANS!!!

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"You can't just leave those who created the problem in charge of the solution."---Tyree Scott

Not Henry Kissinger's picture

H/t MoA

al-Tanf in the lower center (blue) zone (see flags)

Lotsa good stuff on Syria at the link, but here's b's take on al-Tanf:

The local U.S. commander moved a U.S. HIMARS long-range artillery system from Jordan to al-Tanf. HIMARS has a range of 300 kilometers. It makes no difference from a tactical perspective if its fires from Jordan or from al-Tanf in Syria some 12 kilometers east of the border line. It is a symbolic move to "show flag" in al-Tanf but it exposes the system to a legitimate attack by Syrian, Russian and Iranian forces.

As Secretary of State Tillerson rightly said: The U.S. has no legal authority to attack Syrian, Iranian or Russian forces. None at all. It is invading Syria with no legitimate reason. Syria, in contrast, has the legal authority to throw the U.S. troops out.

To move the HIMARS to al-Tanf is utterly stupid grandstanding. It is high time for Washington to shut such nonsense down.

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13 users have voted.

I am waiting for you, Vizzini.

dervish's picture

@Not Henry Kissinger and for that matter, I don't really get what they're doing in Tanf. The bases in Jordan did fine for training terrorists, drone strikes, etc, I see no advantage in actually occupying Tanf or moving hardware there... unless they are trying to goad someone into striking them, or want to prevent government troops from occupying that region.

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7 users have voted.

"Obama promised transparency, but Assange is the one who brought it."