The top American general who oversees military operations in the Middle East told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday he was not consulted before President Donald Trump announced he would withdraw all 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria, The Hill reported.
"I was not aware of the specific announcement," U.S. Central Command (Centcom) commander Gen. Joseph Votel said. "Certainly we are aware that he has expressed a desire and an intent in the past to depart Syria."
When pressed further by Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, to clarify if he had been consulted ahead of the president's announcement in December, Votel responded "I was not consulted."
Votel also warned the senators that taking pressure off ISIS could allow the terrorist group to regain its strength, becoming the latest top official to stress this point.
He explained that although he expects ISIS's physical territory to be entirely retaken by the time American forces withdraw, he warned that does not mean the fight will be over.
"The coalition's hard-won battlefield gains can only be secured by maintaining a vigilant offensive against a now largely dispersed and disaggregated ISIS that retains leaders, fighters, facilitators, resources, and the profane ideology that fuels their efforts," Votel said.
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.
Votel said would not commit to a timeline for the withdrawal, stressing he is not under pressure to be out of Syria by a specific date, according to CNN.
He added he has also not been given conditions to meet before the pullback can occur.
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