US military to stay in Syria ‘as long as we need to’: Pentagon
WASHINGTON – Agence France-Presse
The U.S. military plans to stay in Syria as long as necessary to ensure the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) does not return, a Pentagon official told AFP on Dec. 5.
“We are going to maintain our commitment on the ground as long as we need to, to support our partners and prevent the return of terrorist groups,” Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon said.
The United States currently has approximately 2,000 troops on the ground in Syria, where they have been helping train and advise partner forces in the fight against ISIL.
Now that the jihadists have been cleared from all but a few pockets of territory, the United States has been assessing what its presence will be going forward in the civil-war-torn nation.
Pahon said its troop commitment in Syria would be “conditions-based,” meaning that no timeline will determine if and when the US will pull out.
“To ensure an enduring defeat of ISIL, the coalition must ensure it cannot regenerate, reclaim lost ground, or plot external attacks,” he said.
“This is essential to the protection of our homeland as well as to defend our allies and partners.... The United States will sustain a ‘conditions-based’ military presence in Syria to combat the threat of a terrorist-led insurgency, prevent the resurgence of ISIL, and to stabilize liberated areas.”
Meanwhile, the United States-led international coalition fighting ISIL estimates that fewer than 3,000 fighters belonging to the militant group remain in Iraq and Syria, its spokesman said on Dec. 5.
ISIL’s self-proclaimed caliphate has crumbled this year in Syria and Iraq, with the group losing the cities of Mosul, Raqqa and swathes of other territory.
“Current estimates are that there are less than 3,000 #Daesh fighters left - they still remain a threat, but we will continue to support our partner forces to defeat them,” U.S. Army Colonel Ryan Dillon tweeted, using an Arabic acronym for ISIL.
Dillon’s tweet was part of his responses to an online question and answer session in which he also said the coalition had trained 125,000 members of Iraqi security forces, 22,000 of which were Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.