The commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East has contradicted President Trump on the U.S. troop pullout from Syria.
He’s warned the battle against Islamic State is not over.
CGTN’s Owen Fairclough reports.
Trump is pulling U.S. troops out of Syria because he thinks the militant group has been destroyed.
The U.S. soldier leading the fight against Islamic State gave lawmakers the good news first.
“An area of 34,000 square miles of territory, which they once controlled, is now reduced to an area less than 20 square miles. The successful partnership with the Syrian Democratic Forces and the Iraqi security forces was instrumental in these gains against ISIS,” U.S. General Joseph Votel told the U.S. Senate.
That kind of assessment persuaded U.S. President Donald Trump to announce in December that he would withdraw some 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria.
The surprise announcement shocked U.S. allies, while Defense Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis, quit the day after.
General Votel revealed he was also in the dark, telling senators: “I was not consulted.”
And his position contradicts Trump’s.
“It is important to understand that even though this territory has been reclaimed the fight against ISIS and violent extremists is not over, and our mission has not changed,” Votel said.
“The coalition’s hard- won battlefield gains can only be secured by maintaining a vigilant offensive against the now largely-dispersed and disaggregated ISIS.”
But since taking office, Trump has been making good on pledges to reduce U.S. involvement in conflict zones such as Syria and Afghanistan, but wants to keep troops in Iraq to watch Iran
And yet if Trump is out of step with the military, his own lawmakers are also against him on Syria. On Monday they passed a largely symbolic motion to oppose withdrawal from both Syria and Afghanistan.