No specific date for U.S. pullout from Syria: U.S. general
CGTN

Head of the U.S. Central Command, General Joseph Votel, said on Thursday that the U.S. military had not fixed a specific date to withdraw forces from Syria.

"We don't withdraw in a manner that increases the risk to our forces. There is not pressure on me to meet a specific date at this particular time," Votel said during a House Armed Services Committee hearing.

Votel, who oversees U.S. military in the Middle East, noted in the hearing that the operation against the ISIL is far from over. "Reduction of the physical caliphate is a monumental military accomplishment, but the fight against ISIL and violent extremism is far from over and our mission remains the same."

It's reported that the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) said that they would launch a final assault on the ISIL-held enclave of Baghouz in eastern Syria after all civilians have been evacuated.

Women and children evacuated from the ISL group's embattled holdout of Baghouz arrive at a screening area held by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in the eastern Syrian province of Deir Ezzor, March 6, 2019. /VCG Photo

Women and children evacuated from the ISL group's embattled holdout of Baghouz arrive at a screening area held by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces in the eastern Syrian province of Deir Ezzor, March 6, 2019. /VCG Photo

A spokesperson of the SDF said on Twitter Tuesday that 3,500 people had been evacuated from the enclave and 500 ISIL fighters surrendered.

Votel revealed that the ISIL militants evacuated from the remaining ISIL-held territories were largely "unrepentant, unbroken and radicalized," adding that the ISIL made a calculated decision "to preserve the safety of their families and preservation of their capabilities, and waiting for the right time to resurge."

"In my view, this is a serious generational problem that, if not handled properly, will sow the seeds of future violent extremism," he said.

Declaring victory over the ISIL, President Donald Trump announced in December the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria, leading to the resignation of then Secretary of Defense James Mattis and broad opposition from home and abroad.

Fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces are seen on a military vehicle near Baghouz, March 6, 2019. /VCG Photo

Fighters from the Syrian Democratic Forces are seen on a military vehicle near Baghouz, March 6, 2019. /VCG Photo

In February, Trump announced a small fraction of U.S. forces would remain in Syria with troops from other countries. Citing a senior administration official, NBC News later reported that the U.S. military would leave about 400 troops in two different regions of Syria.

According to the official, half of them would join the multinational force of roughly 800 to 1,500 troops deployed in northeastern Syria to maintain a buffer between Turkey and U.S.-backed Kurdish forces. The rest 200 troops would stay at its base in al-Tanf, near the Syrian border with Iraq and Jordan.

At present, about 2,000 U.S. troops are deployed in Syria.

(Top image: General Joseph Votel, left, head of the U.S. military's Central Command, walks with U.S. Army Lieutenant General Paul LaCamera, commander of the U.S.-led coalition against ISIL, after landing in Baghdad, February 17, 2019. /VCG Photo)

Source(s): Xinhua News Agency