(November 11, 2019 / JNS) Despite withdrawing most U.S. forces from Syria, the United States will keep between 500 and 600 troops in the country, announced the top U.S. military officer on Sunday.
“There will be less than 1,000, for sure,” said Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on ABC’s “This Week.”
“Probably in the 500ish frame, maybe six,” he said.
After abruptly withdrawing U.S. troops from northeastern Syria last month after a phone conversation between U.S. President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in what many have criticized as a betrayal of Kurdish allies by giving the go-ahead for Turkey to invade that part of the country, Trump backtracked and said a small U.S. military presence will remain in Syria to protect the region’s oil.
“There are still ISIS fighters in the region,” said Milley. “Unless pressure is maintained, unless attention is maintained on that group, then there’s a very real possibility that conditions could be set for a re-emergence of ISIS. … The footprint will be small, but the objective will remain the same: the enduring defeat of ISIS.”
Milley added that following the U.S. Special Forces successfully targeted ISIS Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi last month, the U.S. military will now go after his successor Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Quraishi.
The general said the United States has “a considerable amount of information” on Al-Baghdadi’s successor.
“Where opportunities arise, we’ll go after him,” said Milley.
Regarding the Iranian threat, he seemed optimistic about potential diplomacy, though “at the same time, we’ll make sure that we maintain appropriate levels of military capabilities in the region to defend American interests if required.”
Milley’s remarks came a day after U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) head Gen. Kenneth McKenzie visited Israel on Saturday for meetings with the Israel Defense Forces.
This is just the second-ever visit by a CENTCOM commander to the Jewish state following his predecessor, Gen. Joseph Votel last April, even though Israel is not part of the U.S. European Command in what is widely seen as a way for America to avoid disputes with Middle Eastern countries that have an unfavorable view of the Jewish state.
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