Jim Mattis expected to see U.S. civilian presence in Syria

Vastavam web: U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Friday that he expected to see a larger U.S. civilian presence in Syria, including contractors and diplomats, as the fight against Islamic State militants nears its end and the focus turns toward rebuilding and ensuring the militants do not return.The United States has about 2,000 troops in Syria fighting Islamic State. Mattis’ comments are likely to anger Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has previously called U.S. troops “illegal invader” forces.

He has previously stated that U.S. forces will stay in Syria as long as Islamic State fighters want to fight and prevent the return of an “ISIS 2.0,” using an acronym for Islamic State.“Well, when you bring in more diplomats, they are working that initial restoration of services, they bring in the contractors, that sort of thing,” he said.“There is international money that has got to be administered, so it actually does something, it doesn’t go into the wrong people’s pockets,” he added.

“It is an attempt to move towards the normalcy and that takes a lot of support,” said Mattis. It was not clear how many U.S. diplomats would serve in Syria or when. The United States has suspended diplomatic relations with Syria due to the civil war.The U.S.-led coalition battling Islamic State in Syria has repeatedly said it does not seek to fight Assad’s forces, though Washington wants the president to step down.When asked whether Syrian government forces could move to disrupt the U.S. plans, Mattis said: “That would probably be a mistake.”