WASHINGTON, DC – Today, at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, U.S. General Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command, which oversees military operations in the Middle East, testified that President Trump never consulted with him before announcing his plan to rapidly withdraw U.S. forces from Syria and contradicted President Trump’s pronouncement that the Islamic State terrorist organization has been “defeated.”
General Votel warned the committee that the fight against the terrorist organization is “not over” and that Islamic State fighters pose an enduring threat and could quickly regroup if U.S. troops are not able to sustain counterterrorism operations.
During the hearing, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), the Ranking Member of the Armed Services Committee, stated:
“Bringing our troops home should always be our objective, but it must be done in a deliberate and well-thought-out manner in concert with our partners and allies. In the case of the Syria withdrawal, contradictory statements by the President, his National Security Advisor, and other Administration officials have only served to underscore that this decision was anything but thoughtful and deliberate. If public reports are accurate, the President may be about to make a similar quick decision with respect to Afghanistan.
“The conflict in Afghanistan has occurred at great cost in terms of both lives and resources. However, in considering the prospect of conflict termination, we must also weigh the cost of getting it wrong. ISIS, al Qaeda, and an estimated 18 other terrorist groups are still present in the region, and some within the intelligence community assess that external plotting would surge upon our withdrawal.”
General Votel also testified that approximately 20,000 to 30,000 ISIS fighters, supporters, and facilitators remain in Syria and Iraq. These terrorist forces could quickly reclaim lost ground if President Trump follows through with a precipitous withdrawal from Syria.