Top General Says He Wasn't Consulted on Syria Withdrawl

Top General Says He Wasn't Consulted on Syria Withdrawl

The commander said while the original 34,000 square miles of territory held by the terrorist group has been reduced to less than 20 square miles, Daesh still retains leaders, fighters, facilitators and resources.

Trump last month claimed the ISIS had been defeated in Syria and said all United States troops were "coming back now".

Mr Trump's December announcement about withdrawing troops from Syria came as a shock to both U.S. allies and his own officials.

A Defense Department watchdog report released Monday says the Islamic State group "remains a potent force of battle-hardened and well-disciplined fighters that "could likely resurge in Syria" absent continued counterterrorism pressure". The sudden claim rattled top security advisers, and led former defense secretary Jim Mattis to resign from his post.

Votel warned that ISIS could regroup with the removal of USA troops, meaning the military will have to "keep pressure on this network" even after withdrawal.

The Tampa, Florida-based Central Command oversees USA troops across the Middle East, including Iraq and Syria, as well as in Afghanistan, where Trump wants to strike a peace deal with Taliban insurgents to end the more than 17-year-old war.

In a recent interview with CBS News' "Face the Nation", Trump said the US has an "incredible base" in Iraq that he intends to keep, "because I want to be able to watch Iran".

Votel was asked at Tuesday's hearing whether he was asked for his advice about a Syria withdrawal before Trump announced his decision.


"We're at 99 percent right now, we'll be at 100", he said on CBS' "Face the Nation".

In December, Trump tweeted, "We have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump presidency".

The U.S. -led coalition has been engaged in an operation to drive out the IS militants from their last stronghold in the eastern Euphrates region in eastern Syria.

He added the planning for a withdrawal includes devising ways to keep pressure on ISIS, but he declined to discuss strategies in an unclassified setting.

USA officials in recent weeks say Islamic State has lost 99.5 percent of its territory and is holding on to fewer than 10 square kilometres of turf in Syria - an area smaller than New York's Central Park. In general, he said officials were "aware that he had expressed a desire and intent in the past to depart Iraq, depart Syria".

Many people, including members of Trump's own Cabinet, were opposed to the withdrawal.

Trump is expected to speak to the gathered foreign ministers at the U.S. State Department-hosted conference on Wednesday is widely expected to reiterate and expand on his anti-ISIS message from the State of the Union, officials said.

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