The top commander of US forces in the Middle East, General Joseph Votel, told a Senate committee on Tuesday that he was not asked for his advice about a withdrawal of US troops from Syria before President Donald Trump announced his decision. "I was not consulted," the general said. US officials told Reuters that the military has already started the withdrawal process, adding hundreds of troops to Syriato facilitate a safe pullout. It has begun to withdraw equipment from Syria and is expected to begin the drawdown of personnel soon. Trump's December decision to leave Syria, shocked US allies and led to the resignations of Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Brett McGurk, the top envoy to the anti-Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) coalition.
In this photo released by the Colombia's Presidency U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, right, and Colombia's President Ivan Duque talk during a meeting at the Presidential Guest House in Cartagena, Colombia, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2019. WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton are hoping their trips to the Middle East can help shore up support from America's partners amid increasing tensions in the region. In his first Mideast visit since President Donald Trump's recent announcement that he intends to withdraw U.S. forces from Syria, Pompeo will stop in eight countries, starting with Jordan on Wednesday, the State Department said. Bolton planned to depart Friday for Israel and Turkey, his spokesman said. The Syria decision, which led to the resignations of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and the U.S. special envoy for the anti-Islamic State coalition, Brett McGurk, is expected to dominate the officials' agenda, along with the Trump administration's hard line on Iran, the conflict in Yemen and the situation in Iraq.
WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump appeared to backtrack Monday on shock plans for an immediate pullout of US troops from Syria, but said his drive to end American involvement in wars made him a "hero." The shift came a day after a senior Republican senator said Trump had promised to stay in Syria to finish the job of defeating the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS. Trump had earlier stunned allies -- and prompted the resignation of his respected defense secretary, Jim Mattis -- by abruptly announcing that the jihadis were defeated and that U.S. troops in Syria were ready to leave. However, in a tweet early Monday, Trump seemed to signal a more cautious schedule for pulling out the troops which support local forces. "We're slowly sending our troops back home to be with their families, while at the same time fighting ISIS remnants," Trump wrote.
"And, at the end of the day, if we leave the Kurds and abandon them and they get slaughtered, who's going to help you in the future?" he said. "I want to fight the war in the enemy's backyard, not ours. That's why we need a forward-deployed force in Iraq and Syria and Afghanistan for a while to come."