The commander of U.S. Central Command testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that he was as surprised as anyone else when President Donald Trump tweeted in December that U.S. forces would be leaving Syria.
"I was not aware of the specific announcement," Gen. Joseph Votel said in response to a question from Sen. Angus King (I-Maine). "Certainly we are aware that he expressed a desire and an intent in the past to depart."
On Dec. 19, Trump tweeted that "we have defeated ISIS in Syria, my only reason for being there during the Trump Presidency," before following up with a video claiming that the troops have "won" against ISIS and they were "coming home." The New York Times and Washington Post reported that some 2,000 U.S. forces were ordered to conduct a rapid withdrawal.
But the senior commander of those troops, Votel, didn't even get a courtesy calI: "I was not consulted," he said. The decision to rapidly withdraw from Syria was the catalyst for then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis' resignation.
Besides Votel being left out of the loop at the time, the Commandant of the Marine Corps previously admitted to his Marines that he had "no idea" on specifics regarding the troop withdrawal. Since then, the decision to withdraw troops from Syria has been slowed down to a "deliberate and coordinated" departure, according to a Pentagon spokesman.
The U.S. Senate closed out the week before Memorial Day by confirming Gen. James McConville as the Army's new chief of staff and Adm. Bill Moran as the Navy's new chief of naval operations.
McConville, previously vice chief of staff of the Army, was confirmed on Thursday along with his successor, Lt Gen. Joseph Marin. Moran, currently vice chief of naval operations, was confirmed Friday along with his successor, Vice Adm. Robert Burke.
The Pentagon is producing precisely diddly-squat in terms of proof that Iran is behind recent attacks in the Middle East, requiring more U.S. troops be sent to the region.
Adm. Michael Gilday, director of the Joint Staff, said on Friday that the U.S. military is extending the deployment of about 600 troops with four Patriot missile batteries already in the region and sending close to 1,000 other service members to the Middle East in response to an Iranian "campaign" against U.S. forces.