U.S. will not send additional troops to Syria for joint patrols with Turkey

The United States will not send additional troops to Syria to conduct joint patrols with Turkey in a planned safe zone being established according to a deal agreed last month, the Voice of America reported on Friday citing a senior U.S. military official. 

The New York Times reported on Thursday that Washington might approve the deployment of 150 American troops to northeast Syria depending on the success of the initial joint Turkish-U.S. ground patrols that had started on Sunday.

But Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, said during a trip to Baghdad that the new mission would not require additional forces in Syria. 

"We're not going to increase our presence on the ground in order to conduct those patrols," the VOA quoted McKenzie as saying. The U.S. general said that the number of American troops could fluctuate slightly as forces rotate into and out of Syria.

The United States currently has just under 1,000 troops in Syria, mainly to help the Kurdish militia to remove the remaining pockets of the Islamic State (ISIS) fighters in northeast Syria. 

Turkey sees the predominantly-Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which forms the backbone of the U.S.-led coalition fighting against ISIS in Syria, as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

Turkey and the United States agreed last month to establish a safe zone in northeast Syria to ease Turkey’s security concerns, after the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan threatened to launch a military offence against the Kurdish-controlled territories in northeast Syria seized from ISIS.