Trump Wants US Troops Out Of Syria. The Pentagon Really Can’t Say When That’ll Happen

In this picture taken on Thursday, March 29, 2018, U.S. troop's humvee passes vehicles of fighters from the U.S-backed Syrian Manbij Military Council on a road leading to the tense front line with Turkish-backed fighters, at Halawanji village, north of Manbij town, Syria.
Associated Press / Hussein Malla.

President Trump has said he wants to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria as soon as possible, but when exactly is a touchy subject.

“Are you trying to get President Trump to fire me?” Army Col. Thomas Veale replied when Task & Purpose asked him if the U.S. military has a timeline for withdrawing U.S. troops from Syria. “We’re not going to talk timelines. This is a conditions-based campaign, right here, and the condition is – as very clearly stated – the annihilation of ISIS.”

Veale, top military spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, briefed reporters on Tuesday about U.S.-backed operations in Syria, where an offensive by Kurdish and Arab allies stalled in late January, when the Turks launched an operation to capture the Kurdish town of Afrin in northern Syria.

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On May 1, the Syrian Democratic Forces resumed their offensive against ISIS in the Middle Euphrates River Valley, and they began an operation on June 3 to clear the town of Dashisha, one of ISIS’ last enclaves in western Syria, Veale told reporters.

The coalition conducted 225 air and artillery strikes in May to support the SDF’s renewed offensive against ISIS, representing a 304% increase in strikes from March and a 123% increase since April, he said.

Trump told reporters in April that the United States and its allies would soon decide how much longer U.S. troops would stay in Syria. “I want to get out,” the president said at an April 3 news conference. “I want to bring our troops back home.  I want to start rebuilding our nation. We will have, as of three months ago, $7 trillion in the Middle East over the last 17 years.  We get nothing — nothing — out of it.”

But on Tuesday, Veale declined to say whether the end of the SDF offensive in the Middle Euphrates River Valley could mark the start of the U.S. military’s drawdown in Syria.

Related: DoD To T&P;: Stop Calling Our Syrian Border Force A ‘Border Force’ »

“We’ll do what the policymakers want us to do,” Veale said. “Right now, there’s still a lot of work to be done to defeat ISIS. They have a fielded conventional threat in Syria and that’s what we’re doing. We are going to fight until the ISIS threat is eliminated and there is a political resolution. No timeline involved, that I’m aware of.”

Veale also pushed back on a recent Amnesty International report, which criticized the U.S. military for launching air and artillery strikes against areas where civilians were trapped during the 2017 SDF operation to drive ISIS out of its former capital of Raqqa, Syria. The report noted that Marines fired 30,000 artillery rounds at ISIS targets in Raqqa.

“Given that artillery shells have margin of error of over 100 metres, it is no surprise that the result was mass civilian casualties,” Donatella Rovera, senior crisis response adviser at Amnesty International, said in a news release.

“I think Amnesty's dig on the Marines was ungrounded and unfair,” Veale told T&P; after the news briefing. “They don't cite any strike specifics; there's no basis to their claim that Marine artillery caused civilian casualties. The bottom line is that artillery is called by commanders on the ground using pretty specific grids.”


(New Line Cinema)

The Marine Corps has tapped a new Silicon Valley defense firm to develop a "digital fortress" of networked surveillance systems in order to enhance the situational awareness of security forces at installations around the world.

Marine Corps Installations Command on July 15 announced a $13.5 million sole source contract award to Anduril Industries — the two-year-old defense technology company and Project Maven contractor founded by Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey and several former Palantir Technologies executives — for a new Autonomous Surveillance Counter Intrusion Capability (ASCIC) designed to help secure installations against "all manners of intrusion" without additional manpower.

This is no standard intrusion system. Through its AI-driven Lattice Platform network and 32-foot-tall autonomous Sentry Towers, Anduril purports to combine the virtual reality systems that Luckey pioneered at Oculus with Pentagon's most advanced sensors into a simple mobile platform, enhancing an installation's surveillance capabilities with what Wired recently dubbed "a web of all-seeing eyes, with intelligence to know what it sees."

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The Marine Corps' dune buggy drone jammer may have downed two Iranian drones in the Strait of Hormuz, U.S. military have officials announced.

The amphibious assault ship USS Boxer was transiting the Strait of Hormuz on July 18 when two Iranian drones came dangerously close, according to U.S. Central Command.

"This was a defensive action by the USS Boxer in response to aggressive interactions by two Iranian UAS [unmanned aerial systems] platforms in international waters," CENTCOM spokesman Army Lt. Col. Earl Brown said in a statement. "The Boxer took defensive action and engaged both of these platforms."

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On July 17, Army Sgt. 1st Class Richard Stayskal briefly met with President Donald Trump at a rally in Greenville, North Carolina to discuss the eponymous legislation that would finally allow victims of military medical malpractice to sue the U.S. government.

A Green Beret with terminal lung cancer, Stayskal has spent the last year fighting to change the Feres Doctrine, a 1950 Supreme Court precedent that bars service members like him from suing the government for negligence or wrongdoing.

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The Pentagon is no longer topless. On Tuesday, the Senate voted to confirm Mark Esper as the United States' first permanent defense secretary in more than seven months.

Esper is expected to be sworn in as defense secretary later on Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman told reporters.

"We are grateful for the Senate leadership and the Senate Armed Services Committee's willingness to quickly move through this process," Hoffman said.

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(Paramount Pictures via YouTube)

The new trailer for Top Gun: Maverick that dropped last week was indisputably the white-knuckle thrill ride of the summer, a blur of aerial acrobatics and beach volleyball that made us wonder how we ever lost that lovin' feeling in the decades since we first met Pete "Maverick" Mitchell back in 1986.

But it also made us wonder something else: Why is Maverick still flying combat missions in an F/A-18 Super Hornet as a 57-year-old captain after more than 30 years of service?

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