Under force-management levels unveiled by the Barack Obama administration, the number of United States troops in Syria had been capped at 503 and 5,262 in Iraq, figures that did not account for temporarily deployed personnel.
Despite recent ISIS setbacks, the Pentagon said Tuesday that the USA military mission in Syria would continue until areas reclaimed from ISIS are stabilized, adding that United States troops would only withdraw when "conditions" on the ground allowed.
The Defense Department did not immediately clarify how those forces were accounted for or how United States troops would be positioned throughout the country during the stabilization effort, which will proceed as the Trump administration backs UN-led talks to decide the political future of Syria. With the liberation, fewer USA forces are needed to support Iraqi and Syrian forces kinetically.
Pahon said the U.S. troop commitment would be "conditions-based", meaning no timeline will determine any pull out.
The move bitterly angered US commanders, who saw it as giving the Taliban a countdown on when they could resume operations in earnest.
Photo Defense Secretary Jim Mattis in October in Washington. "If a major shift occurs, then we'll come back out with a new, official number".
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He said Russian Federation has done little to fight ISIS. "Nor do they appear to be serious about the withdrawal of Iranian-backed militias".
Still, successive US administrations have themselves been criticized for failing to articulate a coherent plan for Syria, and the elapsed time has seen Russian and Iranian influence bloom.
Despite recent reports suggesting that U.S. support for the SDF would be curtailed, Pahon said the United States would work with the SDF and other local forces on the ground to transition to a "sustainable, self-sufficient, ethnically diverse local security forces", while also promoting "inclusive governance" that is representative of local communities liberated from ISIS rule.
Pahon stressed the US would maintain its support for the Kurdish-Arab alliance called the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that have done most of the ground fighting against IS and which Sunday on announced the end of operations against IS. The American-led coalition has retaken 97 percent of the territory once held by the militants, and the military is working to stabilize recently liberated areas, including the restoration of basic essential services, the removal of explosive materials and the distribution of humanitarian aid. Allowing this to happen should set the conditions for refugees to return to their homes.
More than 340,000 people are estimated to have been killed in the Syrian war, and millions have been displaced.
"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.