In a tension-filled House Armed Services Committee briefing, Pentagon officials were grilled regarding the ever-shifting rationale for Washington’s presence in Syria now that jihadist militant groups are nearing defeat.
Asked to assess the impact of the imminent transfer of Russia’s S-300 air defense system to the Syrians on US and Israeli operations in and around Syria, Joint Staff deputy director Brig. Gen. Scott Benedict warned that it would increase the likelihood of “miscalculation.”
“The introduction of more of these systems only serves to create more unstable conditions and the likelihood of miscalculation such as which we tragically saw earlier in the week with the Russian plane being shot down by the Syrians,” Benedict said, speaking to US lawmakers on Wednesday.
“My greatest concern is that the more things we’re putting in to this small area, particularly as we’re starting to close in on the north part of Syria, the more dangerous the entire situation becomes because of the instability,” the officer added.
In a tense exchange, Congressman Seth Moulton questioned Benedict on the US’s strategic mission in Syria, suggesting that the administration seems to have conflicting priorities. “This week, [National Security Advisor] John Bolton suggested that the United States envisions a permanent presence in Syria to counter Iran, while Secretary [of Defense] James Mattis insisted our forces are only there to counter ISIS*,”…