Top general outlines future of US presence in Syria

Chair of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley said American troops will remain in the country for the foreseeable future

American troops are in Syria for the long haul, General Mark Milley, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, has predicted. He claimed that the contingent will stay in the country to fight remaining ISIS militants.

President Bashar Assad’s government has repeatedly demanded that Washington pull out its forces from its territory, describing the US military presence there as illegal.

Speaking to Jordan’s Al-Mamlaka TV channel on Thursday, Milley said: “I can’t imagine that the United States would ever walk away from the Middle East. I think we’ll remain committed for many, many years and decades to come.”

The General went on to explain that small groups of ISIS militants remain “in and around Syria and around Iraq…and if we were to somehow suddenly withdraw, those forces could reconstruct themselves.”

According to the military official, while the Islamist group was largely vanquished, its ideology is still there, which calls for a “level of commitment” on the part of Washington.

When asked whether Washington will leave Syria when the terrorist group has been completely eradicated, Milley said that such a decision would fall to US President Joe Biden.

The chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff noted at the same time that the Middle East as a whole is “very significant to the United States for a lot of reasons,” not least because it is a “primary source of oil and energy resources.” 

Back in July, the Associated Press, citing an anonymous Pentagon official, reported that the US was considering a military response to an alleged “increasing Russian aggression” in the skies over Syria.

Earlier that month, US Air Forces Central commander Lt. Gen. Alex Grynkewich claimed that Russian fighter jets had “harassed” American MQ-9 Reaper drones over Syria on three separate occasions in a week.

Syrian President Bashar Assad invited the Russian military to assist his forces in the fight against Islamist militants back in 2015, with Moscow maintaining a military presence in the country ever since.

The US, too, launched its own bombing campaign against Islamic State militants in 2014 while providing support to dozens of armed opposition groups.

Damascus has repeatedly accused the US of shipping stolen Syrian oil out of the country under the guise of an anti-terrorism operation. According to the Syrian government, as much as 80% of the country’s daily oil output is taken abroad by “US forces and their supported armed groups.”

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