Thursday, 14 December, 2017

Pentagon signals open-ended troop commitment in Syria

OPINION- Destruction of Daesh to escalate regional violence Pentagon: US committed to Syria until ISIS areas stabilized
Sammy Stanley | 07 December, 2017, 07:06

Last month, the U.S. said there were only 503 USA troops in Syria and 5,262 United States troops in Iraq.

Manning also said Wednesday that the United States has about 5,200 troops in Iraq, essentially the same force size as the Pentagon acknowledged under Obama.

"While the nature of U.S. support to partner forces will adjust as the coalition shifts from from major urban combat operations to stabilization tasks, United States support will not end until the enduring defeat of ISIS and will be determined by conditions on the ground", Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon said in a written statement Tuesday outlining the USA strategy in Syria going forward.

The Defense Department on Wednesday acknowledged that the US has roughly 2,000 troops on the ground in Syria, four times more than what officials had claimed just a month ago.

The United States now has approximately 2,000 troops on the ground in Syria, where they have been helping train and advise Kurdish and Arab partner forces in the fight against IS.

Manning announced the new official figure for American servicemembers in Syria on Wednesday, saying Defense Secretary Jim Mattis wants to increase transparency about where and how troops are deployed.

Manning also said there were approximately 5,200 USA troops in Iraq.

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Pahon said its troop commitment in Syria would be "conditions-based", meaning that no timeline will determine if and when the United States will pull out.

The Pentagon first announced plans to revise the number on August 31, when they unveiled a higher troop count in Afghanistan.

But U.S. military operations in Syria are expected to continue.

Repeating previous statements from defense officials, Manning said that the U.S.is taking a "conditions-based" approach to the conflict against ISIS in Syria and is working with local partner forces to restore basic utilities and stand up local governments and police forces. That number also is trending downward, he said, as the USA -led coalition in both Iraq and Syria transition from supporting offensive combat operations against Islamic State fighters to supporting local security efforts to prevent a reemergence of IS. With the liberation, fewer US forces are needed to support Iraqi and Syrian forces kinetically. "Their collective actions call into question their commitment to deal a lasting defeat to ISIS and other extremist groups", the colonel said.

Russia has claimed its presence is primarily to thwart jihadist groups but the Pentagon says only a tiny portion of Russian strikes have targeted IS.

Furthermore, Russia and Syria do not "appear to be serious about the withdrawal of Iranian-backed militias" operating in Syria, Pahon said. He said the USA -led coalition would continue to apply "continuous pressure on the terrorist networks wherever they operate".

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