US general says Trump did not consult him on Syria pull-out

US general says Trump did not consult him on Syria pull-out
A leading American general has warned that IS could soon reemerge as a threat when American troops are withdrawn from Syria.
2 min read
06 February, 2019
Votel is due to retire from the US military [Getty]

A leading US general overseeing military action in the Middle East has said on Tuesday that President Donald Trump did not consult him about his decision to pull American troops out of Syria.

"I was not aware of the specific announcement. Certainly we were aware that he had expressed a desire and intent in the past to depart Syria," US Central Command head General Joseph Votel, said regarding Trump's announcement in December than American troops would be soon withdrawn from Syria.

"I was not consulted," he told the Senate Armed Services Committee. 

President Trump has made critical comments regarding American involvement in overseas adventures and made repeated threats to withdraw US troops from Syria, where they are aiding Kurdish-Arab forces against the Islamic State groups. 

These comments increased following the collapse of IS on the battlefield, but his announcement in December - that US soldiers would "coming back now" - came as a shock in Washington, particularly due to security analysts viewing.

Senior officials also quit the Trump administration, including Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, who was said to be wary about the American withdrawal and growing power of "malign actors".

Critics have said that Trump refuses to listen to experts on foreign policy matters and instead relies on his gut instinct - or even the counsel of foreign leaders.

Trump's decision on the Syria pull-out appears to have been shaped by a phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had said Istanbul would lead the fight against IS remnants in Syria. 

Turkey also aims at eliminating the threat posed by the Kurdish People's Protection Units, who have been allied with the US in a campaign against IS in eastern Syria.

The US still has 2,000 or so troops in Syria and only non-essential gear has been pulled.

Votel warned that despite IS controlling only a small pocket of about 20 square miles (50 square kilometres) of territory in eastern Syria - with few populated areas - the jihadi group remains a potent threat.

He said that between 1,000 to 1,500 IS fighters remain in that area, while thousands have "gone to ground" in Syria.

Trump is in an ongoing feud with the US intelligence community, which last week warned that an American withdrawal could lead IS to quickly rebuild into a cohesive force.