Head of U.S. forces in Syria visits Israel

Head of the U.S. military’s Central Command, Gen. Joseph Votel, visits Israel amid concerns Trump will withdraw forces from Syria.

Nitsan Keidar,

Israel's northern border
Israel's northern border
Flash 90

The head of the U.S. military’s Central Command (CENTOM), Gen. Joseph Votel, arrived in Israel on Monday amid concerns that President Donald Trump will go through with plans to withdraw American forces from Syria, Israeli public broadcaster Kann News reported.

CENTCOM is responsible for American activities in the Middle East.

Votel met with the head of the National Security Council, the IDF Chief of Staff and other defense officials.

A diplomatic source said that the purpose of the visit was to send a signal of reassurance to Israel that the Americans had no immediate plans to withdraw from Syria and that they would continue to back Israel on any activity intended to maintain the security of its border.

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday that the U.S. would be out of Syria "very soon" in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS).

"We're knocking the hell out of ISIS. We'll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon," he said in an Ohio speech focused on infrastructure, according to The Hill.

"Let the other people take care of it now. Very soon. Very soon, we're coming out. We're going to have a hundred percent of the caliphate, as they call it. Sometimes referred to as land, taking it all back. Quickly, quickly," he added.

The U.S. military presence in Syria has been aimed at ISIS, but the Trump administration has also criticized Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, citing his human rights record and his use of chemical weapons against civilians.

Trump hinted last month that the U.S. would be out of Syria "very soon" in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS).

"We're knocking the hell out of ISIS. We'll be coming out of Syria, like, very soon," he said, adding, "Let the other people take care of it now. Very soon. Very soon, we're coming out. We're going to have a hundred percent of the caliphate, as they call it. Sometimes referred to as land, taking it all back. Quickly, quickly.”

The U.S. military presence in Syria has been aimed at ISIS, but the Trump administration has also criticized Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, citing his human rights record and his use of chemical weapons against civilians.

A week after Trump made those comments, an attack took place in the Syrian town of Douma, which Western powers said involved chlorine and sarin gases and killed dozens.

In response to the Douma attack, the United States, France and Britain launched joint air strikes on Syria.

French President Emmanuel Macron said after those air strikes he had convinced Trump to keep a U.S. presence in Syria for "the long term."

The White House, however, played down Macron’s statement and said Trump still wants U.S. forces in Syria to return home as soon as possible.




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