Nov. 11 (UPI) -- Over 500 troops will remain in Syria despite U.S. plans for a troop withdrawal, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said.
In his first televised interview since assuming the chairman's position in September, Millet told ABC News' "This Week" on Sunday that the U.S. footprint in Syria will be reduced but the military objective of defeating the Islamic State remains the same.
When asked about troop strength, Milley responded, "There'll be less than 1,000 for sure, and probably in the 500-ish frame, maybe six. But it's that area. But we're not going to go into specific numbers because we're still going through the analysis right now."
In October, President Donald Trump announced plans to withdraw nearly all American troops from the Kurdish-controlled region in Syria. The announcement drew bipartisan anger in Congress, and two days later, after the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was announced, Trump said U.S. military forces "may have to fight for the oil."
Milley added that al-Baghdadi's death "will have a very significant disruptive effect on the organization as a whole," and that a U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan will be required for several years to prevent it from becoming a base for terrorists. He also said that the buildup of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf, to counter threats from Iran, will remain in place until a diplomatic settlement is negotiated.
Milley's answers to questions appeared to signal that U.S. troops will remain in the region, despite Trump's regular pledge to remove the United States from ongoing Middle East conflicts.