(March 18, 2019 / JNS) The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Joseph Dunford, refuted a Wall Street Journal report on Sunday that the United States plans to keep as many as 1,000 troops in Syria.
“A claim reported this evening by a major U.S. newspaper that the U.S. military is developing plans to keep nearly 1,000 U.S. troops in Syria is factually incorrect,” said the top U.S. general in a statement on Sunday. “There has been no change to the plan announced in February, and we continue to implement the President’s direction to draw down U.S. forces to a residual presence.”
“Further, we continue to conduct detailed military planning with the Turkish General Staff to address Turkish security concerns along the Turkey-Syria border,” he continued.
“We are also conducting planning with other members of the [anti-Islamic State] coalition who have indicated an intent to support the transition phase of operations into Syria,” added Dunford.
The Journal reported an increase that reflects what has been an apparent reversal since U.S. President Donald Trump announced in December that all 2,000 U.S. troops will withdraw from Syria.
But the decision led to an immediate backlash from both congressional Republicans and Democrats, and the Jewish and pro-Israel community, fearing that withdrawal would leave a vacuum and empower Iran and its proxies, in addition to Turkey, to threaten northern Israel and Kurdish allies.
The administration announced last month that 400 troops would remain with half serving as a peacekeeping force in northeast Syria and the other half stationed at the U.S. military base at al-Tanf in the southeastern part of the country to, as Trump told CBS News, “watch” Iran and “protect Israel.”
The Journal is standing by its reporting.
— Dion Nissenbaum (@DionNissenbaum) March 18, 2019