Pentagon official says Mattis was not wrong to oppose Syria withdrawal

Pentagon official says Mattis was not wrong to oppose Syria withdrawal
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The Pentagon official in charge of special operations said Wednesday former Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisTrump insulted UK's May, called Germany's Merkel 'stupid' in calls: report Mattis urges people to wear masks in PSA about 'nasty little virus' Dozens of GOP ex-national security officials to form group to back Biden: report MORE was not wrong to object to the U.S. withdrawal from Syria.

At a House Armed Services Committee hearing on counterterrorism, Rep. Seth MoultonSeth MoultonHouse panel votes to constrain Afghan drawdown, ask for assessment on 'incentives' to attack US troops Overnight Defense: House panel votes to ban Confederate flag on all Pentagon property | DOD report says Russia working to speed US withdrawal from Afghanistan | 'Gang of Eight' to get briefing on bounties Thursday Democrats expect Russian bounties to be addressed in defense bill MORE (D-Mass.) asked Owen West, assistant secretary of Defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, whether Mattis was “wrong” to disagree with the withdrawal.

“No, sir,” West replied.

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West is the latest official to voice concern about President TrumpDonald John TrumpProtesters tear down statue of Christopher Columbus in Baltimore 'Independence Day' star Bill Pullman urges Americans to wear a 'freedom mask' in July 4 PSA Protesters burn American flag outside White House after Trump's July Fourth address MORE’s plan to withdraw all 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria.

A day after Trump announced his decision in December, Mattis tendered his resignation.

Last week, the top U.S. intelligence officials warned of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria's (ISIS) potential to resurge without sustained pressure, as did a Pentagon inspector general report Monday. On Tuesday, the commander of U.S. Central Command said he was not consulted prior to Trump’s announcement.

During Tuesday night’s State of the Union address, Trump defended his plan in Syria, as well as his desire to draw down in Afghanistan, saying that “great nations do not fight endless wars.”

Trump is scheduled later Wednesday to address the 79-member global coalition to defeat ISIS at the State Department.

At Wednesday’s hearing, West said that while U.S. troops do not need to be “co-located” with partner forces to keep pressure on ISIS, it will be more difficult to do so.

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“Militarily, we will be less effective,” he said.

West also said he does “not know the strategic thinking that went into” Trump’s decision.

At the same hearing, Maj. Gen. James Hecker, vice director of operations for the Joint Staff, similarly said it will be “a very difficult situation” to keep pressure on ISIS after withdrawing.

“What we need to do is work with our allies, work with the [Syrian Democratic Forces], work with the surrounding countries, whether that be Iraq, Jordan or Turkey, on how we can keep the pressure on,” Hecker said.

Pressed by Moulton whether he agrees a withdrawal does not keep pressure on ISIS, Hecker said there “will be a decrease” in pressure by leaving Syria.