Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s regime demanded on Wednesday that U.S. troops leave the country immediately. The Assad government has long-opposed the U.S. presence in Syria, but this new demand comes two days after a U.S. base in the country came under a rocket attack.
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The Syrian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying, “The American side must immediately and unconditionally withdraw its military forces that are present on the territory of Syria illegally, refrain from stealing and smuggling Syrian oil and wheat, and lift the cover and protection for armed separatist groups and armed terrorist groups that are present in the illegal American military base ‘Al-Tanf.'”
The Syrian Foreign Ministry also said the U.S. must “put a final and unconditional end to the unilateral coercive measures imposed by successive U.S. administrations on the Syrian people.”
The Syrian government did not specify any actions it could take if the U.S. refuses its demand, but the demand came two days after an Aug. 15 attack that saw rockets land near the U.S. military’s Green Village base in northeastern Syria.
The statement also denied knowledge of Austin Tice, a U.S. Marine veteran and journalist who has been missing in Syria since Aug. 14, 2012. Tice’s parents said last week that President Joe Biden had a plan to bring their son home.
The Syrian government said the U.S. “must admit before the families of American citizens that it is the one who encouraged them to travel to Syria and deal with armed terrorist groups under various pretexts without giving any weight to their security, safety and lives.”
U.S. and allied forces entered Syria in September 2014 as part of Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR). The official OIR mission is to counter the Islamic State terrorist group (ISIS) presence in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. launched the operation at the height of the ongoing Syrian civil war, which began in 2011. The U.S. has also supported Syrian rebel forces opposed to the Assad regime and funneled weapons to those rebels through a CIA-led operation called Timber Sycamore.
The Assad government has previously demanded all U.S. troops leave Syria and the U.S. was momentarily on track to do just that in 2019 under President Donald Trump. He ultimately reversed the withdrawal plans amid pushback from Democrats and Republicans in Congress.
There are currently about 900 U.S. troops still currently in Syria, according to Newsweek. Those U.S. forces are mostly split between their Al-Tanf Garrison in southern Syria and outposts near oil fields in the country’s east.
OIR did not appear to directly identify who was behind Monday’s rocket attack, but said an Iran-backed militia force was responsible for a separate rocket attack on the base in January.
Iran and Iran-backed militia forces have fought throughout the Syrian Civil War on the side of the Assad regime.