U.S. general warns on ISIL threat in Syria

The Associated Press

Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of the U.S. Central Command, speaks at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in Washington on Tuesday.

Reuters WASHINGTON (Reuters) — A top U.S. general warned on Tuesday that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group would pose an enduring threat following a planned U.S. withdrawal from Syria, saying the militant group retained leaders, fighters, facilitators and resources that will fuel a menacing insurgency.

The remarks by U.S. Gen. Joseph Votel, head of the U.S. military’s Central Command, represent the latest warning by current and former U.S. officials about the risk of a resurgence by ISIL following a planned U.S. withdrawal from Syria ordered in December by U.S. President Donald Trump.

“We do have to keep pressure on this network ... They have the ability of coming back together if we don’t,” Votel, who oversees troops in the Middle East as well as Afghanistan, told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

He added that territory under ISIL’s control had been reduced to less than 52 square kilometers and would be recaptured by U.S.-backed forces prior to the U.S. withdrawal, which he said would be carried out in a “deliberate and coordinated manner.”

Votel told the Senate hearing he was not consulted ahead of Trump’s surprise decision to withdraw the United States’ more than 2,000 troops from Syria, which helped trigger the resignation of his defense secretary, Jim Mattis.

Trump’s Syria withdrawal has also fueled rare, vocal opposition from within his own Republican party.

The Republican-led U.S. Senate on Monday backed largely symbolic legislation that broke with Trump by opposing plans for any abrupt withdrawal of troops from Syria and Afghanistan.

It warned that “a precipitous withdrawal” could destabilize the region and create a vacuum that could be filled by Iran or Russia.

U.S. officials tell Reuters that the military has already started the withdrawal process, adding hundreds of troops to Syria to facilitate a safe pullout. It has begun to withdraw equipment from Syria and is expected to begin the drawdown of personnel soon.Speech

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