Pentagon says full Syria withdrawal many years off

By Ben Wolfgang
December 11, 2019

Top Pentagon officials suggested Wednesday that President Trump’s goal of a full withdrawal of U.S. forces from Syria may still be years away, conceding that “it’s hard to foresee anytime soon” that the U.S. and its allies will completely crush the threat posed by the Islamic State.

In wide-ranging testimony before the House Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley argued that American troops are needed in Syria until regional forces are able to handle the fight entirely on their own. Given the chaos across Syria, such a U.S. handoff does not appear to be on the horizon.

The comments by Mr. Esper and Gen. Milley come just two months after Mr. Trump again said he was ordering the U.S. out of Syria, where ground forces have been stationed since 2015 in the U.S.-led battle against the terror group also known as ISIS. Mr. Trump ordered the withdrawal of some U.S. Special Operations forces in October to keep out of harm’s way as Turkey launched an incursion against American-allied Syrian Kurdish forces in northern Syria.