General Mark Milley, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Jordanian TV on Thursday that US forces illegally occupying oil fields in Syria's northeast will remain there for the foreseeable future to "fight ISIS."
"The ideology is not yet dead, and there are some ISIS terrorists that are still roaming the deserts of Syria and somewhat into Iraq, so that presents a threat," Milley told Jordan's Al-Mamlaka TV.
"There are still fighters in small groups in and around Syria and around Iraq... and if we were to somehow suddenly withdraw, those forces could reconstruct themselves. So the situation is much, much better than it was. But it still requires a level of commitment. So we've got some modest amount of forces in Syria, and we've got forces in Iraq," he added.
The US military chief also said that the decision to leave Syria falls on President Joe Biden. "I can't imagine that the United States would ever walk away from [West Asia]. I think we'll remain committed for many, many years and decades to come," he stressed.
He said this a day after the US envoy to Iraq confirmed that large-scale troop movements in Iraq are "part of the exchange of existing forces." Iraqi officials previously said that hundreds of US troops moving inside Iraq were on their way to Syria.
While the White House claims its troops are present in Syria to confront ISIS, Russian intelligence and Syrian locals say Washington's forces house and train extremist militants in the 55-kilometer-zone surrounding the Al-Tanf occupation base in southeast Syria.
An in-depth investigation by The Cradle shows that the US Army was aware ISIS was gaining ground in Syria a decade ago and did nothing to stop them, particularly when the group crossed the Syrian into Iraq border in 2014 and launched an assault to capture the city of Mosul.
The US military also ignored ISIS’ advance on the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra in 2015, which by 2017 had been liberated twice by Syrian and Russian forces.
ISIS is currently seeing a resurgence in Syria, carrying out multiple terror attacks against civilians and army personnel, with some reports saying the militants are operating from US-controlled areas in Deir Ezzor.
According to the UK-based Syrian Observatory of Human Rights (SOHR), Syria is witnessing the "most violent" escalation in ISIS activities since it was "eliminated geographically" in 2019.
.@WhatTheHekmat crashed the meeting of a lobbying front that ended the life-saving US sanctions exemption for post-earthquake Syria.— Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) August 22, 2023
An ex-State Dept. official revealed their goal: partition Syria and create a de facto Caliphate for rebranded Al Qaeda.https://t.co/fGtyYddvNy
Earlier this month, Damascus accused Washington of "sponsoring terrorist organizations, foremost of which is ISIS" and said that using Sunni Muslim and Kurdish militias is a "tool to implement its plans towards Syria and the region."
Previous US support for ISIS was illustrated by a 2012 US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) document that indicated a Salafist principality like the one established by ISIS in 2014 would emerge in western Iraq and eastern Syria. The document indicated that this would be a positive outcome in the view of the US and its regional partners as part of their covert war against the Syrian government, which began in 2011.