General Joseph Votel addresses lawmakers
When US President Donald Trump first announced his victory over the Islamic State and the decision to withdraw US troops from Syria, the general commanding US forces in the Middle East was not informed of this in advance..
“I was unaware of this particular announcement,” General Joseph Votel said in a speech to lawmakers on Tuesday..
“I was not consulted,” he added..
Since the announcement, Pentagon officials have confirmed that some of the military equipment has been removed from Syria. Other preparations for the withdrawal of approximately 2,000 US troops from this country are also ongoing..
However, there is no complete clarity on the question of how and when American troops will leave Syria in a situation where the question remains unanswered whether the withdrawal of the American contingent will give the Islamic State militants an opportunity to rebuild their forces and recapture the left territories..
“We are going to do this with a good thought,” Votel said..
According to the general, this means that it is necessary to look for ways to escape, while leaving no hope for the terrorists..
“We have to put pressure on this (terrorist) network,” Votel said. “They have the opportunity to come back together if we don’t.”.
The warning follows statements from other senior defense officials in recent days, including a report released on Monday..
“In the absence of constant [counter-terrorism] pressure on IS, it can revive in Syria within 6-12 months and regain its limited territory,” the document says..
The document also warns that IS has a “battle-hardened and well-disciplined force … capable of coordinating an offensive and counter-offensive.”.
On Tuesday, General Votel told lawmakers that the forces of US partners are now slowly but steadily advancing in the fight against the last remnants of the self-proclaimed terrorist “caliphate” in Syria..
“This fight is evolving as we imagined it,” Votel said..
However, he said that he expects the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces to vacate the remaining territory before the last US troops leave Syria..
The head of US Central Command said the United States is working with partners and allies to ensure that again ISIS cannot return..
However, officials continue to warn that this may be difficult to do..
US commander: ‘Not consulted’ on Syria withdrawal
US defense and intelligence services estimate the terrorist group still has between 20,000 and 30,000 fighters and supporters scattered across Syria and Iraq, some of which are already launching attacks as part of a growing insurgency..
U.S. officials also believe morale among IS fighters remains high, despite the group’s loss of more than 99 percent of the territory it previously controlled..
Questions also remain over whether US-backed Syrian fighters will be able to exert sufficient pressure on IS in the absence of US troops and with the possible loss of support from Kurdish fighters..
Kurdish commanders have warned that they may have to abandon the fight against IS to defend against Turkish forces that might attack them after the Americans leave.
Turkey believes many of the Kurdish fighters are associated with the PKK, a terrorist group that has been insurgent in southeastern Turkey for decades..
“We’re going to look at issues like protecting our Kurdish partners,” Votel told lawmakers. “We are going to consider the problems that Turkey has”.