The U.S. commander who has been leading the war against ISIS disagrees with President Donald Trump’s decision to pull troops out of Syria, warning that the terror group is far from defeated, CNN informs.
Joseph Votel, the top American general in the Middle East, also said that the US-backed forces on the ground in Syria were not ready to handle the threat of ISIS on their own.
“It would not have been my military advice at that particular time … I would not have made that suggestion, frankly,” Votel said of the troop withdrawal. “They still has leaders, still has fighters, it still has facilitators, it still has resources, so our continued military pressure is necessary to continue to go after that network,” Votel claims.
Speaking to CNN from Oman on Friday, Votel revealed he would only have declared that ISIS had been defeated, as Trump did in December, if he was sure they no longer posed a threat.
“When I say, ‘we have defeated them’, I want to ensure that means they do not have the capability to plot or direct attacks against the US or our allies. They still have this very powerful ideology, so they can inspire,” Votel said.
The commander of U.S. Central Command had previously said that he “was not consulted” before Trump’s controversial announcement late last year that the US would rapidly withdraw its troops from the war-torn country.
Trump’s announcement appalled U.S. lawmakers and triggered resignations, including that of Defense Secretary James Mattis and the senior State Department official in charge of the anti-ISIS campaign, CNN adds.
Meanwhile, Russia, Turkey and Iran agreed Thursday on the need to coordinate on eventual arrangements for northeastern Syria after the U.S. withdrawal, Washington Post reported.
The talks in Russia’s Black Sea resort town of Sochi underscored the various interests at play in Syria – Russia and Iran as key backers of President Bashar al-Assad, and Turkey seeking to keep close watch on Syrian Kurds seen by Ankara as a potential threat.
The three-way statement, made by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey and Iran’s Hassan Rouhani – also showed concerns over any vacuum caused by Trump’s decision to pull out troops that have been battling the Islamic State in Syria’s northeast.
“It is our joint view that the [U.S. withdrawal] is a positive move that will help stabilize this part of Syria, where legitimate government control should eventually be restored,” Putin said after the trio met for the latest round of Kremlin-initiated talks aimed at finding a way to end the eight-year conflict.