WASHINGTON (Dispatches) The U.S. military forces are poised to stay in war-ravaged Syria for "as long as we need to,” says a Pentagon official.
"We are going to maintain our commitment on the ground as long as we need to, to support our partners and prevent the return of terrorist groups," Pentagon spokesman Eric Pahon told AFP.
The Department of Defense spokesman on Iraq and Syria also repeated Washington’s stance that the U.S. and its allies are fighting the Daesh group there.
Pahon further announced that there would be no timeline to determine if and when they may leave as their presence is "conditions-based."
"To ensure an enduring defeat of ISIS (Daesh), the coalition must ensure it cannot regenerate, reclaim lost ground, or plot external attacks," he said. "This is essential to the protection of our homeland as well as to defend our allies and partners.... The United States will sustain a conditions-based military presence in Syria to combat the threat of a terrorist-led insurgency, prevent the resurgence of ISIS, and to stabilize liberated areas."
The U.S.-led coalition of 68 nations has been conducting airstrikes against what are said to be Daesh targets inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate. Such air raids began in Iraq in August of the same year.
The military alliance has repeatedly been accused of targeting and killing civilians.
Fewer Than 3,000 Daesh Terrorists in Iraq, Syria
The development comes as the United States-led international coalition fighting Daesh estimates that fewer than 3,000 terrorists belonging to the group remain in Iraq and Syria, its spokesman said.
Daesh’s self-proclaimed caliphate has crumbled this year in Syria and Iraq, with the group losing the cities of Mosul, Raqqah and swathes of other territory.
"Current estimates are that there are less than 3,000 #Daesh fighters left - they still remain a threat, but we will continue to support our partner forces to defeat them,” U.S. Army Colonel Ryan Dillon tweeted, using an Arabic acronym for Daesh.
Dillon’s tweet was part of his responses to an online question and answer session in which he also said the coalition had trained 125,000 members of Iraqi security forces, 22,000 of which were Kurdish Peshmerga fighters.
When asked if the United States planned to build permanent military bases in Iraq or Syria the defeat of Daesh, Dillon said it would not. "No - the Government of #Iraq knows where and how many from Coalition are here to support operation to defeat #Daesh; all bases are #Iraqi led,” he tweeted.
The coalition will begin a transition from focusing on retaking territory to consolidating gains, it later said in a statement following a meeting of its leaders with Iraqi military commanders.