Over 500 US troops expected to remain in Syria: Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Mille

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley sits down with co-anchor Martha Raddatz on "This Week."
8:26 | 11/10/19

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Transcript for Over 500 US troops expected to remain in Syria: Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Mille
You can rest assured I'll always provide you informed, candid, impartial military advice. That was general mark Milley taking on his new role as the 20th chairman of the joint chiefs of staff a little over a month ago as principle military adviser to the president. I first met chairman Milley 15 years ago in Iraq on a night patrol and in 2005 in Baghdad and in Afghanistan ten years ago. This year I travelled to the Pentagon where we talked about the meaning of service. I started by asking him about current troop levels in Syria after president trump's recent call to withdraw forces. If I do my math and look at the new troops going in and those going out, it could be more than 700 who remain. Well, there will be less than 1,000 for sure. Probably in the 500ish frame, maybe six. It's in that area. We're not going to go through specific numbers. How important is it to keep an American presence in Syria? There are still ISIS fighters in the region. Unless pressure is maintained, unless attention is maintained on that group, there's a very real possibility there could be a reemergence of ISIS. We committed to do that. The footprint will be small, but the objective will remain the We've now killed al-baghdadi, the leader of ISIS. They named a new leader. Tell us what you know about the new leader and what effect will the death of al-baghdadi have on ISIS. His death will have a significant disruptive effect on the organization as a whole. They've apparently replaced him with another leader. We have a considerable amount of information on that individual. We'll see in the days ahead, weeks ahead, months ahead if he's able to piece together his organization. We'll pay attention to him and where opportunities arise we'll go after him as well. Iran announced it will inject uranium gas into centrifuges. They keep pushing this, making more provocative moves with their military program. Where does this end? Iran has been a challenge for the United States since the revolution in 1979. We hope diplomatic efforts will resolve the nuclear issue with Iran and we place our faith in the diplomatic efforts. At the same time we'll make sure that we maintain appropriate levels of military capabilities in the region to defend American interests if required. The U.S. Says Iran was responsible for attacking the tankers, that they're responsible for shooting down a highly sophisticated, very expensive American drone, yet there haven't been significant consequences. There's been consequences. Our government has chosen not to react militarily at this time. We have capability. It depends on the scope, scale and nature of any provocation Iran does or any threat they do against U.S. Forces in particular or against U.S. Interests or our friends and allies in the region. I want to move to Afghanistan. We've been in Afghanistan more than 18 years. What would you say to someone who is 18 years old, male or female, may end up serving in a war that began before they were born? We have to go back to the original reason we are in Afghanistan to begin with, which is 9/11. We went there to make sure Afghanistan would never again be a safe haven for terrorists that would attack the united States. That mission is not complete. In order for that mission to be successful, the government of Afghanistan and the Afghan security forces are going to have to sustain their own security forces. That effort is ongoing. It's been ongoing for 18 years. I suspect it will be ongoing for several more years. When you say that, that makes me think we'll be there that long in Iraq or Syria, wherever the islamic state is. It's not just the islamic state. It's other groups. I think we will be for a significant amount of time. It's our national interests to be there to help out. I want to ask you about Ukraine. Ukraine has been a hot topic of late. How important is the military aid to Ukraine, especially with Russia there on its border. Well, here we are on the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall. Since that time, Russia has aggressively acted against Ukraine. The United States chose to help Ukraine with money, with advisory aid, with training and manning and equipping through two administrations. We're continuing to do that. I think it's important to continue to help Ukraine. I want to ask you about lt. Colonel Alexander vindman who has been questioning on the hill. Do you have any questions about his loyalty? Do you know lt. Colonel vindman? I don't personally know him. I've learned over the years not to comment on active investigations. I know that lt. Colonel vindman is a witness to an active investigation being conducted by congress right now. It would be inappropriate for me to make any comments. It's veteran's day on Monday. As I look at you and so many other veteran's I see especially those bars, those stripes on your right sleeve, each one of those means six months in a combat zone. You've got ten of those, five years. So many others have sacrificed so much, the ultimate sacrifice as well. Veteran's day is to honor all our veterans. Who do you think about? The first veterans I met were my mother and father. Both veterans of World War II. My dad was in the fourth marine division. Made the assault landings at saipan. He saw some very horrendous combat. My mother served in the Navy. She was a medical orderly. She was at a hospital in Seattle taking care of wounded. They had a sense of service and gave me a sense of how lucky I was to be an American, how lucky I was to grow up in a country where we have freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of religion and a variety of rights not well-known in other places. I've had 442 soldiers killed under my command. That's since 9/11. I think of them a lot at all times of the day. At 2:00 in the morning your eyes pop open and you think about what those young men and women have done for this country. The freedoms we have, Martha, are not free. They're paid for by the blood of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who have been fighting for us for two and a half centuries. Fewer than 1% serve in the military in this country. You went to princeton and played hockey instead of west point. What can you explain to those Americans who don't serve? When I went to princeton, I met the hockey coach. He was a marine captain in Vietnam. He introduced me into rotc. I thought I would do that and serve my country for four years here I am 40 years later. I have not looked back. I've not regretted it. I think service to the country and service to the nation is an important calling. Our thanks to the chairman and all our veterans.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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