Middle East

Syria Update: US Gen. Joe Dunford Speaks At Council On Foreign Relations, Sept 2019

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, hosts his counterpart Israeli Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot, the commander in chief of the Israel Defense Forces in Washington D.C.

General Joseph discussed US military and defense strategy in conflict areas around the world at the Council on Foreign Relations. He discussed challenges in eastern Syria. It comes in the context of Denmark sending troops to eastern Syria and discussions with Turkey and de-confliction with Russia.


“ISIS is not doing well, they have a significant presence in Iraq and Syria, nowhere near as strong as they were, [they are] degraded, and engaging in insurgent and guerilla style operations.”

On detainees: 

“I share concerns about the detainees held [at Al-Hol, etc], when you talk about US presence there are many ways to deal with those [detainees] and the larger problem of detainees and IDPs is led by the State Department and not Department of Defense, and those are the tools we use to address that problem.”

On the SDF:

The SDF in east of Syria need support of the coalition in order to be effective in dealing with residual ISIS presence, but as importantly training local forces to secure that area cleared of ISIS. So there is work to be done and we estimate 50-60,000 local security forces in total would need to be trained to hold that ground and we are fifty percent of the way there, I say we collectively the coalition.”

On Turkey

“Turkey has legitimate security concerns between Syria and Turkey and we have been in constant negotiation and dialogue for years. I visited Turkey 12 times in recent weeks and worked very hard where we can continue to prosecute the campaign against ISIS and address the concerns the Turks have along their border. We established ten days ago a center to coordinate the operations with the Turkish general staff; I spoke to the chief of defense [of Turkey] ten days ago and at the three star [general] level every day [we are talking], we have in place measures to address those concerns. Is there a possibility that Turkey could move into northeast Syria? I don’t believe that would be helpful to our mutual interest, [we will] find a way to address Turkey’s concerns and maintain campaign continuity against ISIS.” – US General Joe Dunford, Chairman Joint Chiefs at Council on Foreign Relations.

The relevant part of the video is at minute 50.

He also spoke about Russia in Syria. He said the US works on “de-confliction and direct link to the Russian general staff, three levels of robust communications.”

In August 2018 he said “In Iraq and Syria, we’re operating as part of a 77-member Defeat-ISIS Coalition. In Syria, 2,000 U.S. and additional Coalition forces are working to enable the 50,000 Syrian Democratic Forces in clearing the remainder of ISIS in the Euphrates River Valley and then stabilizing those areas that have been cleared of ISIS.”

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