US mission in Syria worth the risk, says top general

Mark Milley calls defeat of ISIS and supporting local partners important tasks

Gen Mark Milley, left, speaks to US forces in Syria on an unannounced visit. Reuters
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A senior US army general has said Washington's eight-year military deployment in Syria is worth the risk to ensure "an enduring defeat of ISIS".

Speaking to reporters on a rare visit to Kurdish-controlled north-east Syria, Gen Mark Milley said the presence of American troops in the region to support the Syrian Democratic Forces was tied to US national security.

"I happen to think that's important, yes," he said, while he visited the area to assess anti-ISIS operations and protection for US troops.

"I think that an enduring defeat of ISIS and continuing to support our friends and allies in the region ... I think those are important tasks that can be done."

Despite being territorially defeated in Syria in 2019, ISIS continues to wage a low-level insurgency across northern Iraq and Syria, and often targets members of the Kurdish-led SDF, a key US ally in fight against the terrorist group.

About 900 US troops are stationed in north-east Syria as part of the fight against ISIS.

Gen Milley visited the area to meet commanders and troops launching a new anti-ISIS campaign, his spokesman Col Dave Butler said.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman "received updates on the counter-ISIS mission, inspected force-protection measures and assessed repatriation efforts for the Al Hol refugee camp”, Col Butler said.

US bases in the north-east of Syria have come under attack from Iran-backed proxies, who also often strike bases hosting American-led coalition troops in neighbouring Iraq.

Last month, American forces shot down an "Iran-manufactured drone" flying over a patrol base.

The US says attacks on its troops hinder efforts to stamp out ISIS in the region.

Conflict between Syrian-Kurdish forces and Turkey has also affected operations against the terrorist group.

More than 50,000 people are held in Al Hol camp, overseen by Kurdish forces near the Iraqi border.

UN chief Antonio Guterres has called on governments to repatriate their citizens from the camp, which holds ISIS-linked families from across the globe and others who fled ISIS-held areas after the fall of the caliphate.

Updated: March 05, 2023, 8:37 AM