The Middle East continues to be a hotbed of violence and conflict. U.S. troops have been fighting, advising, and training in the region for almost 20 years. While there will always be U.S. troops deployed to the Middle East under the jurisdiction of the Central Command (CENTCOM), many are questioning how much longer the U.S. plans to keep troops in Syria and Afghanistan.


Combat troops in Syria are tasked with assisting the Syrian Democratic Force (SDF) in their fight against ISIS. Within Syria, U.S. forces are operating in an area known as the Easter Syria Security Area. There, troops are working with local forces to support them in the fight against ISIS. Troops are also stationed at At-Tanf, which is further south in the country.

U.S. forces are also assisting the SDF with maintaining their oil facilities. During the Middle East Institute event, which took place June 10, General McKenzie, the Commanding Officer for CENTCOM, explained, “We’re there to assist the SDF in the maintenance of the oil facilities for their use to help them generate income, which could be used [sic] for a variety of things, some of which would be to continue operations against ISIS.”

It is no secret that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is not an ally of the United States. McKenzie noted that “Over time, Bashar al-Assad is probably going to turn to the east and increase pressure on us, and we’ll deal with that as it happens.”

President Trump has expressed his desire to remove U.S. troops from Syria, but so far has not accomplished this task.

On that point, General McKenzie stated, “I don’t know how long we’re going to remain in eastern Syria. At some point, we’re going to come out, and that’s a political decision and we’ll be ready to execute those orders when that time comes.”

He also pointed out that there are 10,000 ISIS members currently locked up in prison camps in Syria. He categorized over 2,000 of the prisoners as “hardcore foreign fighters.”


According to General Mckenzie, the U.S. is ahead of schedule to meet the agreed-upon drawdown number of troops to 8,600. The troop decrease was a stipulation in the peace deal that the U.S. signed with the Taliban earlier this year.