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Romney urges for details on Syria defense strategy

FILE - In this May 21, 2019 file photo, Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, speaks to reporters after a classified members-only briefing on Iran, Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

WASHINGTON, DC — Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), along with Sen. Catherine Cortez Mastro (D-NV), wrote a letter to the Department of Defense asking for insight into the Syria defense strategy Friday afternoon.

The letter was sent to Secretary Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley, requesting information on the mission of U.S. troops currently deployed in Syria.

The senators also requested information on plans of safety, especially in regards to avoiding retaliation on the killing Iranian General Qasem Soleimani. 

“We would appreciate further clarity about the mission of U.S. troops currently deployed to Syria,” the senators wrote. “Until now, the administration has not articulated a coherent and consistent strategy to Congress.”

The senators said the president is required to submit these Syria defense strategies to Congress, pointing to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019. 

The strategy is supposed to provide clarity into how the Trump Administration will address future threats proposed by ISIS, al-Qaeda and other Iranian activity in Syria. It also should address the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East.

“However, ISIS remains a threat to U.S. national security, and to that of our partners and allies, with as many as 14,000 to 18,000 ISIS fighters remaining in Iraq and Syria,” the senators wrote.

The senators called for a coherent Syria defense strategy, saying it’s important not only for government representatives to know but also the deployed troops.

“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, we respectfully request unclassified responses to the questions below for the record at your earliest opportunity,” the senators concluded.

The senators wrote out a list of several questions — including details on the primary mission of the U.S. in Syria and how a removal of U.S. troops would affect the area — and demanded answers from the president no later than Feb. 13.