The top U.S. commander in the Middle East told the House this week that there is no specific date by which U.S. troops will be withdrawn from Syria.
General Joseph Votel, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) commander, was in Washington D.C. this week to provide Congress with his assessment of the situation in Syria, where the U.S.-led coalition has reduced the area controlled by the Islamic State to only one square mile. ISIS, at its height, controlled approximately 35,000 square miles in Iraq and Syria.
“Reduction of the physical caliphate is a monumental military accomplishment, but the fight against ISIS and violent extremism is far from over and our mission remains the same,” General Votel said on Thursday. “While ISIS has been battered…we should be clear in our understanding that what we are seeing now is not the surrender of ISIS as an organization but, in fact, a calculated decision to preserve the safety of their families and preservation of their capabilities…waiting for the right time for a resurgence.”
Meanwhile, the White House has announced that around 400 U.S. troops will remain in Syria after the withdrawal of the majority of American forces in the coming months. It’s likely the troops who remain will be special operations forces, notably U.S. Army Green Berets, who will focus on training and advising friendly local security forces, including the U.S. and Kurdish-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
Of the troops that remain in Syria, 200 are expected to be in a multinational force in the northeastern part of the country. The other 200 will be stationed at an outpost in the southeast, where they will be used to help counter Iran’s growing influence in the country.