Mattis right to disagree with Trump on Syria, top Pentagon official says

Hugh Fox
February 7, 2019

Angus King, I-Maine, asked.

Mr Trump gave remarks at the State Department to foreign ministers and senior officials from a 79-member US-led coalition battling the so-called Islamic State group. The surprise change in policy led to the resignation of several top officials, including former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, as well as vocal opposition from some of the president's biggest allies on Capitol Hill.

U.S. officials say so-called Islamic State has lost 99.5% of its territory and is holding on to fewer than two square miles in Syria in the villages of the Middle Euphrates River Valley, where the bulk of the fighters are concentrated.

Votel would not commit to a timeline for the withdrawal.

"I don't know how many times you can say this but I prefer the president would stay off Twitter - particularly with regard to these important national security issues", Sen. "Eighteen years ago, terrorists attacked the USS Cole - and last month American forces killed one of the leaders of the attack", he added.

ISIS could come back in Syria within six months: Pentagon
However, he said he would discuss specifics in a closed session with the panel, planned for Tuesday afternoon. And when he addressed the Senate Armed Services Committee, Votel warned that an ISIS resurgence is possible.


Since then, other military brass and a number of GOP lawmakers have pushed back, warning the president that an abrupt withdrawal would only increase the chances of an ISIS resurgence.

A Defense Department Inspector General report published Monday said that "absent sustained [counterterrorism] pressure, ISIS could likely resurge in Syria within six to twelve months and regain limited territory". "So our mission is to try to figure out how we can continue to keep the pressure on in Syria without any boots on the ground". "But we're-yeah, they'll be coming back in a matter of time".

"We've eliminated nearly every one of them", he said, referring to their leaders while acknowledging the terrorists' ability to bounce back from adversity.

US President Donald Trump said Tuesday that talks with Afghanistan's Taliban were making headway as he voiced cautious hope for a negotiated end to America's longest war.

In an interview that was taped Friday, Trump told CBS News that the U.S. would use a base in Iraq as a means to "watch" Iran.

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Trump also said he wants to leave troops in Iraq, however, in order to keep an eye on the regime in Iran.

Asked by Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, if the United States mission in Iraq is to defeat ISIS, Votel replied, "that is exactly my understanding", adding that the U.S. is in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi government.

Across town, Maj. Gen. James Hecker, the vice director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House Armed Services Committee "there will be a decrease in the amount of pressure that we will be able to apply" on ISIS because of the USA troop pullout, according to The Associated Press.

According to the IG report, most of the military commanders' replies to the IG's January questions were classified, but Votel's command provided one overarching conclusion that was not classified.

"If they are slaughtered by the Turks within reasonable proximity to our leaving, it will be a stain on our honor of this country that will persist ... in our ability to attract allies to assist us in future projects of this kind", King said.

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The ISIS issue will also come up at a February 6 Senate Armed Services hearing on global threats. "Foreign Minister, we're with you", he told Hakim. He said the Iraqi constitution forbids the use of Iraq as a base to threaten the interests or security of neighbouring countries.

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