Top general not consulted before Trump's Syria pull-out decision

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In a surprise move in December, Trump tweeted plans to recall half of the 14,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan and all of the 2,000 troops out of Syria, arguing that America can not stay engaged in "unending wars".

"I was not aware of the specific announcement", U.S. Central Command (Centcom) commander Gen. Joseph Votel said.

However, Trump's latest decision to withdraw USA troops from Syria and his latest controversial remarks concerning US forces in Iraq have, to quite an extent, overshadowed the upcoming meeting. Former U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis also resigned shortly after Trump's withdrawal decision.

The Republican-led US Senate on Monday backed largely symbolic legislation that broke with Trump by opposing plans for any abrupt withdrawal of troops from Syria and Afghanistan.

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During an interview with CBS television aired on Sunday, Trump reportedly said that the important role of USA troops in Iraq is "to watch Iran", sparking anger and rejection in Iraq.

The Islamic State group has lost territory since Trump's surprise announcement in December that he was pulling USA forces out, but military officials warn that the fighters could regroup within six months to a year after the Americans leave.

At nearly the same time the report was released, the US Senate was approving an amendment critical of Mr Trump's Syrian and Afghanistan withdrawal.

He added that territory under Islamic State's control had been reduced to less than 20 square miles (52 square kilometers) and would be recaptured by US-backed forces prior to the American withdrawal, which he said would be carried out in a "deliberate and coordinated manner".

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Officials said that overall, about 2,000 ISIS militants remain in Syria.

Last week, USA intelligence chiefs also broke with the president, saying Islamic State would continue to pursue attacks from Syria, as well as Iraq, against regional and Western adversaries, including the United States.

According to the report, U.S. Central Command believes that ISIS fighters will continue to conduct "opportunistic attacks" on U.S. troops as they withdraw.

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Central Command said that the Islamic State group is "regenerating key functions and capabilities more quickly in Iraq than in Syria", but unless there is sustained counterterrorism pressure, Islamic State militants "could likely resurge in Syria within six to twelve months and regain limited territory" in the Middle Euphrates River Valley. The aim of the conference is to recommit the coalition to that aim and ensure that the departure of USA troops does not overly complicate that mission.

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