Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., the 19th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that with regard to stabilization “we have a long way to go.” He didn’t want to affix a time frame. The US wants to defeat ISIS and to “provide support for Secretary Pompeo to resolve the Syrian civil war through the Geneva process.” So the presence is related to the political process. “We at a point where we can say the presence we have is sustainable and can be adjusted based on conditions.”
So they aren’t leaving anytime soon, it seems. He was speaking at a Washington Post Live event, He “discussed the U.S. presence in Syria, citing his main objectives to defeat ISIS and assist U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict and stabilize the country.” Dunford has led the ISIS war since September 2015 when he was confirmed under Obama. Trump announced recently that Gen. Mark Milley would replace him but a Defense Department spokesman on Monday said “that Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford will serve the remainder of his term despite President Trump announcing his successor 10 months ahead of his end date.”
But he has said that 35,000 local forces, or more, need to be trained. The US has trained 20%. The US has already trained combat forces that are a “balance of Arab and Kurdish” who have been fighting ISIS for years. But now the US wants this large stabilization force. This is the force that caused controversy in January 2018 and also sparked anger in Ankara which accused to the US of training a “terror army”
The discussion is part of a pattern of slow and increasing discussions about the US diplomatic role and attempting to bring the Pentagon anti-ISIS policy into line with the State Department’s policies. State has been dealing with the Geneva process and also confronting Iran as well as working with Turkey in Manbij. The Pentagon wanted to concentrate on the ISIS war but now it finds its role expanded and dealing with stabilization and an open ended effort in Syria as well as in the middle of political controversies with Turkey and its own partners in the SDF.