The Commanding Officer of the U.S. military’s Central Command, which oversees American military operations in the Middle East, warned that the Islamic State would pose an enduring threat to the West, following a planned U.S. withdrawal from Syria. General Joseph Votel stressed in remarks, during a Senate hearing, that the fight against the Islamic State and violent extremists is not over” and that the American mission to eradicate the extreme Muslim militants from the region – has not changed. According to him, “The fight against ISIS and violent extremists is not over and our mission has not changed. The Coalition’s hard-won battlefield gains can only be secured by maintaining a vigilant offensive against the now largely dispersed and disaggregated ISIS that retains leaders, fighters, facilitators, resources and the profane ideology that fuels their efforts.”
General Votel further asserted that the United States, in cooperation with its partners in Syria, will continue to pressure the Islamic State. When asked by Senator Angus King whether he was “aware of the president’s intention to order the withdrawal of our (American) troops from Syria before that was publicly announced?” a decision which prompted among others the resignation of former Secretary of Defense James Mattis; General Votel revealed that he “was not aware of the of the specific announcement, certainly we are aware that he has expressed a desire and intend in the past to depart Iraq, depart Syria.” In response to an additional question posed by Senator King, the General divulged that he had not been consulted before the decision was announced.