Small Wars Journal

CENTCOM’s Votel: ISIS Will Be Defeated Before U.S. Leaves Syria

CENTCOM’s Votel: ISIS Will Be Defeated Before U.S. Leaves Syria by Claudia Grisales - Stars & Stripes

A top military general told Senate lawmakers Tuesday that the Islamic State will be defeated in Syria and the terrorist group will not be capable of a resurgence after U.S. troops leave the country.

Army Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, made the comments before a Senate panel following weeks of controversial and conflicting plans from top officials from President Donald Trump’s administration on how U.S. troops will leave Syria.

Votel, who has had a 38-year career in the military, is due to leave his post at the end of next month.

“The fight against ISIS and violent extremists is not over and our mission has not changed” in Syria, Votel told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “The [U.S.-led] coalition’s hard-won battlefield gains can only be secured by maintaining a vigilant offensive against a now largely dispersed ISIS.”

Votel, in an exchange with Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., chairman of the committee, said the Syria withdrawal instructions entail “a very, deliberate approach to how we depart.” Votel also confirmed to committee members that he believes the remaining ISIS stronghold in Syria will be eliminated by the time of U.S. troops drawdown.

Votel said there are between 20,000 to 30,000 ISIS fighters left in the region, most of whom are underground or dispersed. He said one remaining ISIS stronghold of about 1,000 fighters remains within a 20-square-mile area near the southern Euphrates River and the Iraqi border.

However, a government watchdog report released Monday suggested the Islamic State in Syria could resurge within six to 12 months and regain territory in the Middle Euphrates River Valley without sustained counterterrorism pressure…

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