Top US officials, including Secretary of Defense James Marris, say that the US remains determined to keep its military in Syria indefinitely. Mattis said that keeping troops in Syria was solely a function of ensuring the permanent defeat of ISIS, adding that remains the “one purpose.”
This has been a popular talking point for the Pentagon, as preventing the “return of ISIS” could conceivably last forever. This is in keeping with the Pentagon’s own vision of an open-ended presence.
With increasing talk of ISIS’ defeat, however, National Security Adviser John Bolton sought a different standard in his own comments, saying US troops will stay in Syria so long as any Iranian forces remain, adding that this includes all Iranian allies and militias.
That is the ultimate excuse for a permanent occupation, as the US and Israel have spent much of the Syrian War branding all Shi’ite militias, including those who are a part of the Iraqi government, as de facto Iranians. This means there will be be no end-state in which the US can’t argue that something vaguely Iranian remains.