The strategic partnership between Qatar and the US plays a key role in the fight against terrorism, General Kenneth McKenzie Jr, Commander of the US Central Command, has said.
General McKenzie Jr was providing an update on the US Central Command’s operations, including counter-terror and Defeat-ISIS efforts, via a telephonic press briefing Tuesday.
“As you know, my forward headquarters is in Qatar, which should send a very significant signal about the importance of that relationship. We maintain [inaudible] structure in Qatar as well. So this is an important relationship; it’s one that we work at and one that we feel is vital to us,” he told reporters.
He is currently on his first trip to the region since February after postponing several trips due to Covid-19 concerns.
“We’re in Syria to fight ISIS. That’s our primary reason for being there with our partners on the ground. And I think we are keeping very good, solid pressure on ISIS, where sometimes they’re a little more active from one month to the next,” General McKenzie Jr said.
“I’m not willing to say that there’s a trend of a resurgence occurring in Syria. I just don’t believe that to be the case. I mean, but it’s important to understand this: at no point in the future is there ever going to be a period where there’s not some form of ISIS left on the ground,” he pointed out.
“And so I think we’re going to continue to see guerrilla activity, insurgency activity from ISIS, and really, well into the future. I don’t see that as ending,” he added.
He underscored the importance of creating local conditions that would allow security forces on the ground to be able to deal with these attacks from ISIS.
“It is not a bloodless future; rather, it is a future that can be handled by local people, and we’re working very hard up and down the Euphrates River Valley, and particularly east of the Euphrates River Valley, with our partners there to ensure that local security forces are in place and will be able to prevent this,” General McKenzie Jr said.
About plans regarding the presence of US troops in the Middle East, he said the first phase of the strategic dialogue between US and the Iraqi government was held recently and the second phase would take place in a couple of weeks.
“It is my belief that in the long run, Iraq will see the virtue of a US presence in Iraq and, in fact, a coalition and Nato (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) presence in Iraq, and they will want us to remain. We’re there to continue operations against Daesh,” General McKenzie Jr said. “There is still work to be done on that front, and I believe they will see the advantage of US forces remaining. So, I’m actually optimistic about that going forward.”
Like Qatar, he also cited Kuwait as one of their main partners in the region in combating terrorism, which “has been a good friend of the US for many years”.
“It is key to our basic structure in the region. They allow us to move in and out as necessary. We have a very good series of agreements with Kuwait, and they’ve always been wonderful hosts [inaudible] flexible, very willing, very accommodating,” General McKenzie Jr said.
About the impact of Covid-19 to the US Central Command’s operations, he said they were still able to carry out all their activities amid the Covid-19 outbreak both globally and regionally.
“All our capabilities remain; all our force elements are capable of carrying out their assigned tasks. It is a very stressful and demanding time, but I think the close co-operation that we’ve had with nations across the region is just indicative of our larger approach to problems here in US Central Command, and indeed, the willingness of the nations to work with us and with each other in the region,” General McKenzie Jr stressed.