Maintaining US troop levels in Syria while creating a 'safe zone' along Syria's northeastern border will not provide the Islamic State with a space to flourish, Pentagon officials asserted after incurring criticism from numerous directions.
Washington is striving to strike a balance between its partnership with Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) - which is militarily led by the People's Protection Units (YPG) and primarily comprises Kurdish fighters - and helping Turkey create a safe zone, or security mechanism, as a buffer between it and US-backed Syrian Kurds. With the Trump administration opposed to deploying additional troops to Syria, questions have cropped up over whether the US is now diverting its attention in the fight against the Islamic State.
"We're not going to increase our footprint on the ground to conduct these patrols because as we see it right now, this is directly linked to our defeat Daesh [the Islamic State] mission. Ensuring the security and the stability in the security mechanism zone contributes directly to fighting Daesh, and we have sufficient resources on the ground now," Brigadier General Scott Naumann, the director of operations for the Combined Joint Task Force Operation 'Inherent Resolve', told reporters during a 19 September call. He confirmed that the US has approximately 1,000 troops operating throughout northeastern Syria for both defeating the Islamic State and safe zone operations, but several military officials have declined to detail the number of troops working on the latter.
Despite Brig Gen Naumann's troop level assertion, Washington has asked coalition partners to provide additional support in Syria, and some former military officials are questioning if the US is taking on more than it should.
Want to read more? For analysis on this article and access to all our insight content, please enquire about our subscription options at ihsmarkit.com/janes