- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 10, 2019

U.S. forces won’t be withdrawing from Afghanistan any time soon, according to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, who said Sunday the mission in America’s longest war will likely “be ongoing into the future for several more years.”

The effort to prevent Afghanistan from being a safe-haven for terrorists plotting attacks on the U.S. homeland is “ongoing” and has “been ongoing for 18 years,” Gen. Milley told ABC’s “This Week” in an interview a day before Veterans Day celebrations in the United States.

While his comments fit with the Trump administration’s stated posture toward the Afghan war, the joint chiefs chairman’s message may be seen to run counter to President Trump’s oft-stated claim to be getting America out of so-called “forever wars.”

Mr. Trump has touted the claim to supporters in light of his recent decision to draw down the number of U.S. forces in Syria.

Gen. Milley told ABC that Americans should think back to “the original reason why were are in Afghanistan to begin with, which is 9-1-1.”

“We went there in order to make sure that Afghanistan never again would be a haven, a safe-haven for terrorists that would attack the United States,” he said. “That mission is not yet complete and in order for that mission to be successful, the government of Afghanistan and the Afghan security forces are going to have to be able to sustain their own internal security to prevent terrorists from using their territory to attack other countries, especially the United States.”

“I think that we will be there for a significant amount of time because it’s in our national interests to be there, to help out,” Gen. Milley said.

U.S. officials are reported to have lowered the number of American troops in Afghanistan from roughly 15,000 to about 13,000 over the past year — a slight reduction that came even as peace talks broke down with Taliban militants, whom Washington accuses of harboring Islamic State fighters and other extremist groups.

With regard to Syria, meanwhile, the joint chiefs chairman told ABC’s Martha Raddatz in an interview that a small contingent of U.S. forces will remain in Syria to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State, or ISIS, there.

Gen. Milley said the number would likely be between 500 and 600 U.S. troops.

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