Top US military official says 500 troops to remain in Syria

A US military vehicle drives along a road in the Syrian northeastern city of Qamishli. (File/AFP)
Updated 10 November 2019

Top US military official says 500 troops to remain in Syria

  • Trump had previously announced a complete withdrawal
  • Milley says it was important for US troops to remain in Syria so long as Daesh has a presence

WASHINGTON: US troop levels in northern Syria will probably stabilize around 500, a top American military leader said Sunday, weeks after President Donald Trump had announced a complete withdrawal.
“There will be less than 1,000, for sure,” General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on ABC’s “This Week.” “Probably in the 500ish frame, maybe six.”
Trump’s abrupt announcement last month that he had ordered a full troop withdrawal drew angry rebukes at home and abroad, with critics saying it could allow a resurgence of Daesh, while leaving US-allied Kurdish fighters in Syria vulnerable to a Turkish invasion.
The US president later relented in part, saying he would leave some troops in the region to protect valuable oil fields.
Milley, who has commanded troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, told ABC that it was important for US troops to remain in Syria so long as Daesh has a presence there.
“There are still Daesh fighters in the region,” he said, using an alternate term for Daesh. “Unless pressure is maintained, unless attention is maintained on that group, there’s a very real possibility there could be a re-emergence of Daesh.”
Asked about the killing Oct. 26 of Daesh leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi by a US special forces unit, Milley said it would have a “significant disruptive effect on the organization.” He said the US had “a considerable amount of information on his successor,” Abu Ibrahim Al-Hashimi Al-Quraishi.
“Where opportunities arise,” Milley said, “we’ll go after him.”
Trump has said he wants to wind down US military entanglements abroad where possible, but Milley predicted that American troops, already in Afghanistan for 18 years, would remain there “for several more years.”
He was also asked whether he knew Alexander Vindman, the army lieutenant colonel and White House Ukraine expert who has testified about his concerns over a controversial phone call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Milley declined to comment “on a witness to an active investigation” — the House of Representatives’ impeachment inquiry into Trump.


Israeli lawmakers submit bill to dissolve parliament

Updated 31 min 8 sec ago

Israeli lawmakers submit bill to dissolve parliament

  • Israel has been mired in political deadlock for months
  • Lawmakers from the rival sides together tabled the bill

JERUSALEM: Israeli legislators submitted a bill Tuesday that would dissolve parliament and trigger unprecedented third national elections in less than a year.
Israel has been mired in political deadlock for months.
With the two largest parties, Likud and Blue and White, unable to form a power-sharing agreement ahead of a Wednesday deadline, lawmakers from the rival sides together tabled the bill.
It is expected to go to a vote in parliament on Wednesday, setting the date for the next election on March 2.
“Under the exceptional circumstances that have emerged, and after two adjacent election campaigns in which no government was formed, the dissolution of the 22nd Knesset is being proposed,” the bill reads.
Neither Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor his main rival Benny Gantz have been able to form a coalition government after two inconclusive elections. Polls have predicted the third vote is unlikely to produce dramatically different results.
The legislation is something of a formality. The allotted period for forming a government following September’s election expires at midnight on Wednesday. Without a coalition deal, elections would have been automatically triggered later in March.
Each of this year’s elections, and their subsequent coalition jockeying, have largely been a referendum on Netanyahu, who was recently indicted for bribery, breach of trust and fraud in three corruption affairs.
Blue and White’s Gantz has refused to sit in a Netanyahu-led coalition, citing the long-serving leader’s legal troubles. Netanyahu has refused to step down, still overwhelmingly backed by his Likud party and his adoring base.