US Senators held a comprehensive hearing this week on defense strategy and military assistance in the Middle East. The hearing was held on August 10, 2021 by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism. The hearing was convened by subcommittee head Senator Chris Murphy. 

Testifying at the hearing were Ms. Mira Resnick, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Regional Affairs, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, and Ms. Dana Stroul, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East, Office of the Secretary of Defense. Resnick and Stroul are top Biden Administration officials responsible for US policy toward North and East Syria.

During the hearing, Stroul emphasized that the US troop presence in North and East Syria would not be withdrawn. 

“The Biden administration is committed to retaining US military presence in northeast Syria,” said Stroul. “It is also committed to addressing the humanitarian crisis.”

“Over time, our goal is to partner with self-reliant, capable, and accountable partner forces, who will work alongside the United States to achieve mutual objectives based on shared threats and shared interests,” said Stroul in her opening statement.

“One of the places we’ve seen proxy war played out is in Syria,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen, who posed questions about the Syria Study Group, which she had helped to initiate. She also asked about a US “detainee coordinator” position who might address ISIS detainees held in al-Howl camp, a position that had been mandated by a defense spending bill during the previous presidential administration, but has thus far not been filled.

The broad-ranging hearing, covered topics such as China’s role in the Middle East, threats to Israel’s security, Iran’s military activities, non-state actors, Lebanese security, the crisis in Yemen, Saudi Arabian human rights abuses, and other issues. Stabilization assistance was briefly mentioned in the Syrian context by Stroul.

“We have restored stabilization assistance so areas that were liberated from ISIS have the opportunity to rebuild and are no longer vulnerable to ISIS,” said Stroul.