US won't send more troops to Syria
US and Turkish soldiers conduct the first-ever combined joint patrol outside Manbij, Syria, November 1, 2018. (photo credit: ARMY/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
Date: 2019-09-14 09:07
The US military will not increase troop levels in Syria to carry out joint patrols with Turkish forces, a top general said on Friday (September 13), adding that his goal was to eventually reduce the number of US forces in the country.
US troop levels in Syria, which number around 1,000, have been under intense scrutiny since President Donald Trump last year ordered their complete withdrawal - only to later be convinced to leave some forces behind to ensure that Islamic State militants cannot stage a comeback.
The New York Times reported on Thursday that the Pentagon was preparing to send about 150 troops to conduct ground patrols with Turkish forces.
But Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, head of US Central Command, said the new mission would not require additional forces in the country.
“We’re not going to increase our footprint on the ground in order to conduct those patrols,” McKenzie said during a trip to Baghdad, while acknowledging that troop levels can fluctuate as forces rotate into and out of Syria.
“We’re going to do patrolling with the Turks (and) we’ll manage that within the current number while actively seeking opportunities to get smaller over time.”
Turkey wants to clear its border of Syrian YPG militia, which it labels as a terrorist organization. But the YPG has been a main US ally in the fight against ISIS in Syria, infuriating Turkey and straining ties with Washington.
As a way to address Turkish concerns, the United States has started carrying out the joint patrols with Ankara, with the first land patrol on Sunday and the fourth joint overflight of the area on Thursday.
Based on Reuters