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Between 500 and 600 U.S. troops are expected to remain in Syria when all is said and done, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley said on Sunday.
Milley's comments on ABC News' "This Week" indicate the U.S. military's footprint in Syria will end up being roughly half the size it was before Turkey invaded Kurdish-held northeast Syria last month.
Editor's Note: This article originally appeared on Business Insider.
U.S. Ambassador Bill Roebuck, the special envoy for the anti-ISIS campaign in Syria, sent a scathing memo to the Trump administration, criticizing it for not doing enough stop the Turkish-backed military assault into the Syrian border.
The 3,200 word memo, which was obtained by The New York Times, was dated October 31 and delivered to representatives in the State Department, the White House, and Defense Department. Titled "Standing By as Turks Cleanse Kurds in Northern Syria and De-Stabilize our [Defeat ISIS] Platform in the Northeast," Roebuck questioned the U.S/'s efforts to dissuade Turkey from sending militants to the border and said it was a "tough call" in determining whether it would have prevented Turkey's offensive earlier in October.
"But we won't know because we didn't try," Roebuck reportedly said in the memo.
Top defense officials tried to convince reporters on Thursday that the U.S. military's mission to protect oil fields in eastern Syria isn't just about the oil.
"The mission is the defeat of ISIS," said Navy Rear Adm. William Byrne, Jr., vice director of the Joint Staff. "The securing of the oil fields is a subordinate task to that mission. The purpose of that task is to deny ISIS the revenues from that oil infrastructure."
The F/A-18 Super Hornet that pulled off the US's first air-to-air kill in 18 years still has the war paint to prove it
When Navy Lt. Cmdr. Michael "Mob" Tremel took on an air-support mission on June 18, 2017, he didn't realize that he'd end up shooting down a Syrian Sukhoi Su-22 fighter-bomber in the U.S. military's first air-to-air kill since 1999.
"The whole mission out there that day was to go defeat ISIS and annihilate ISIS," Tremel recalled of the incident during a September 2017 Tailhook Association symposium. "If at any point in time that day it had escalated, that would have been fine by us."
Tremel may carry the memory of that day with him everywhere, and now so will his aircraft: According to recent Pentagon photos, the F/A-18E Super Hornet from VFA-87 that Tremel flew into battle clearly carries a fresh victory marking — a scalp for one of the squadron's "Golden Warriors."
US troops tasked with guarding Syria's oil fields are reportedly still waiting for guidance on their mission
The convoy of U.S. armored vehicles headed east, Stars and Stripes flapping in the wind as it lumbered toward its apparent destination — the oil fields of Rumeilan, in Syria's far northeast.
There, pump jacks line both sides of the road, churning up and down. Smoke from small refineries rises into the sky and fires shoot from natural gas outlets. Electrical lines dot the landscape and tankers plod up and down the pothole-racked highway.
They're the tattered vestiges of Syria's long-crippled oil industry, which has become the latest justification for President Trump's on-again, off-again policy to keep a U.S. presence in the country's northeast.
"We want to bring our soldiers home. But we did leave soldiers because we're keeping the oil," said Trump on Friday, before adding, "I like oil. We're keeping the oil."
The problem is, there isn't much oil to keep.