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The Syria conflict, now in its seventh year, remains a significant policy challenge for the United States. U.S. policy toward Syria in the past several years has given highest priority to counterterrorism operations against the Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIL/ISIS), but also included assistance to opposition-held communities, support for diplomatic efforts to reach a political settlement to the civil war, and the provision of humanitarian assistance in Syria and surrounding countries. The counter-IS campaign works primarily "by, with, and through" local partners, per a broader U.S. strategy initiated by the Obama Administration and continued with modifications by the Trump Administration. The United States has simultaneously advocated for a political track to reach a negotiated settlement between the government of Syrian President Bashar al Asad and opposition forces, within the framework of U.N.-mediated talks in Geneva. For a brief conflict summary, see Figure 2. Since the recapture of the Islamic State's self-proclaimed capital at Raqqah by U.S.-backed forces in October 2017, Trump Administration officials have reemphasized that the United States is entering a "new phase" that will focus on "de-escalating violence overall in Syria through a combination of ceasefires and de-escalation areas." These efforts are designed to create the conditions for a national-level political process ultimately culminating in a new constitution and U.N.-supervised elections. In January 2018, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson laid out the Administration's policy for future U.S. involvement in Syria, stating that the United States intends to maintain a military presence there to prevent a resurgence by the Islamic State. To date, the United States has directed nearly $7.7 billion toward Syria-related humanitarian assistance, and Congress has appropriated billions more to support security and stabilization initiatives in Syria and in neighboring countries. The Defense Department has not disaggregated the costs of military operations in Syria from the overall cost of Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR), which has reached over $18.5 billion. The executive branch has reprogrammed or requested more than $2.2 billion to train, equip, advise, and assist vetted Syrians as part of a specially authorized program in place since late 2014. Congress also has debated proposals to authorize or restrict the use of military force against the Islamic State and in response to Syrian government chemical weapons attacks, but has not enacted any Syria-specific use of force authorizations. Looking forward, policymakers may consider questions regarding the purpose, scope, and duration of the U.S. military presence in Syria, the effectiveness of U.S. cooperation with Russia, post-Islamic State governance and reconstruction, as well as the challenges of reaching a political settlement between the Asad government and a broad spectrum of armed and political opposition actors.
The Syrian civil war, now in its seventh year, continues to present new challenges for U.S. policymakers. Following a deadly chemical weapons attack in Syria on April 4, 2017, and subsequent U.S. defensive strikes against Syrian military infrastructure and pro-regime forces, several Members of Congress have called on the President to consult with Congress about Syria strategy. Some Members have questioned the President's authority to launch strikes against Syria in the absence of specific prior authorization from Congress. In the past, some in Congress have expressed concern about the international and domestic authorizations for such strikes, their potential unintended consequences, and the possibility of undesirable or unavoidable escalation. Since taking office in January 2017, President Trump has stated his intention to "destroy" the Syria- and Iraq-based insurgent terrorist group known as the Islamic State (IS, also known as ISIL, ISIS, or the Arabic acronym Da'esh), and the President has ordered actions to "accelerate" U.S. military efforts against the group in both countries. In late March, senior U.S. officials signaled that the United States would prioritize the fight against the Islamic State and said that Syrian President Bashar al Asad's future would be determined by the Syrian people. Senior members of the Trump Administration have spoken critically of Asad's leadership but call for de-escalation of the underlying conflict and a negotiated settlement, rather than seeking to compel Asad's departure from power.
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Recent events involving Boko Haram, Al-Shabab and Al Qaeda show that the terrorist threat to the UK is as grave as at any point in the past thirteen years. Interpol have the resources and experience to build a platform and the UK must take the lead in bringing others to the table. However, ensuring public safety cannot be the sole purview of the counterterrorism command and the security service, it is a responsibility in which all UK citizens and companies take a share. Stopping British men and women going to become foreign fighters, in Syria and other theatres of conflict, and engaging with them when they return is vital to avoid endangering the security of the UK. Whether in classrooms, local community centres, or through the global reach of the internet and social media, a clear message needs to be sent to those at risk. The agencies are at the cutting edge of sophistication and are owed an equally refined system of democratic scrutiny. It is an embarrassing indictment of our system that some in the media felt compelled to publish leaked information to ensure that matters were heard in Parliament. The Intelligence and Security Committee should be given a democratic mandate in the same way as other Select Committees

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