CENTCOM General: US Troop Surge in Middle East May Not End Soon

No plans to withdraw 20,000 additional troops

US commander Gen. Frank McKenzie addressed the question of over 20,000 US surge troops who have been deployed to the Middle East since May, and when they might withdraw back to the US. His answer was that “we’ll work that out as we go ahead.”

That gives the impression that the US hasn’t given much thought to how long this surge will last. Gen. McKenzie’s other comments suggest the same thing, saying the troops could stay “quite a while,” or it could be “less than that.

The US deployments since May have mostly been couched as something to do with US tensions with Iran. Those tensions are far from dying down, and it seems that the plan, or what passes for a plan, is to keep the troops there so long as that is the case.

President Trump has expressed a desire to bring troops back from the Middle East and avoid protracted wars. At the same time, on Wednesday he downplayed the number of troops in the Middle East, and seems not to be contemplating any near-term cuts.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper was very keen to redeploy troops from the Middle East to the Pacific to confront China. Whether he’ll be able to do that, however, likely depends on the circumstances, as the US seems to find constant reasons to stay in the Middle East.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.