Published: Fri, March 08, 2019
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

No pressure to withdraw from Syria by specific date: USA general

No pressure to withdraw from Syria by specific date: USA general

U.S. Central Command chief Gen. Joseph Votel testifies before the House Armed Services Committee on March 7, 2019.

"What we are seeing now is not the surrender of ISIS as an organisation but a calculated decision", he said.

The SDF announced a military operation to liberate Baghouz in September, but has held off on a full blown assault after it became apparent that a huge number of civilians were still inside.

U.S. Central Command Commander Gen. Joseph Votel appears at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Feb. 5, 2019.

Trump ordered the withdrawal of all 2,000 USA troops in Syria in December after he said they had defeated Islamic State militants in Syria.

Hundreds of women disembarked at the outpost, where they waited to be processed and searched by the SDF and members of the US-led coalition.

Numerous fighters leaving the village had been wounded in an intense bombardment by the SDF artillery and coalition warplanes during the weekend.

The battle against the Islamic State group is "far from over" and the jihadists remain unbroken and prepared for a resurgence despite the elimination of their physical base in Syria, a top USA commander said Thursday.

Islamic State fighters holed up in the enclave at Baghouz near the Iraqi border have been giving up in large numbers this week after a ferocious assault on their enclave on Saturday and Sunday, but many remain inside, said the commander.

Democratic lawmakers criticized the administration for not consulting allies and military leaders prior to announcing in December, on Twitter, that ISIS was defeated and that USA forces would leave Syria.

"We will need to maintain a vigilant offensive against this now widely dispersed and disaggregated organization that includes leaders, fighters, facilitators, resources and of course their toxic ideology", he said.

In December, Trump announced that he was pulling all American troops out of Syria, but partially reversed course and agreed to keep a residual force of perhaps a few hundred troops as part of an worldwide effort to stabilize northeastern Syria.

A war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said there were preparations in eastern Syria to announce the end of ISIL there.

A member of US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces watches over people who were evacuated.

"Four hundred IS fighters tried to flee Baghouz" on Tuesday night, the SDF official said on condition of anonymity.

They were on foot and included Syrians as well as fighters from several other nationalities, the officer added.

After its sudden advance across swathes of Syria and Iraq in 2014, the group held about a third of both countries, but its wholesale slaughter or sexual enslavement of minorities and its grotesque public killings roused global anger.

At its peak, the proto-state was the size of the United Kingdom and administered millions of people.

But despite the impending loss of Baghouz, which the SDF says is only days away, the group continues to carry out deadly attacks in Syria and Iraq.

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