Donald Trump will keep troops in Iraq to 'watch Iran'


That figure includes a large swath of desert around Syria villages IS controls.

During a February 5 hearing held by the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gen. Joseph Votel explained, "I was not aware of the specific announcement".

"Our response created a state of observable panic and extreme fear among them, which led them to request air cover in anticipation of any action against them", al-Anzi said in the press conference Saturday. "They're exhausted. Everybody's exhausted".

Earlier that month, Trump announced that the US would withdraw troops from Syria, claiming that the USA had defeated ISIS in the country.

Mr Trump initially said the withdrawal from Syria should be immediate, but he has since said it would be gradual.

It also includes an amendment sponsored by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell that urges Trump not to exit military conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan. The militias fought alongside USA -backed Iraqi troops against IS in recent years, gaining outsized influence and power along the way.

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Votel said he was not under pressure to withdraw USA troops from Syria "by a specific date" and had not "had any specific conditions" placed on him. In late November and December that figure had been estimated at between 400 and 600 square kilometers, according to officials briefed on the matter.

It should stick to fighting terrorism and not pursue other agendas, he added.

Trump said in a weekend interview that ISIL is "almost knocked out".

During his pre-Super Bowl interview with "Face the Nation" on Sunday, Trump was asked by CBS host Margaret Brennan about his decision to seek drawdowns in the Middle East after previously criticizing President Barack Obama for telegraphing his military moves in the region.

A variety of Iraqi lawmakers used Trump's visit to the al-Asad base in December to call on US forces to leave the country.

The Defense Department watchdog report warned that even with the IS forces on the run, the group "is still able to coordinate offensives and counter-offensives, as well as operate as a decentralized insurgency".

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He further urged Iraqi parliamentarians to present the draft law on the withdrawal of the United States troops from the Arab country.

ISIS may conduct opportunistic attacks on US personnel as they withdraw but will leverage the event as a "victory" in its media.

"Challenges to completely defeating ISIS in Iraq include the group's rural strength, its tunnels and safe houses, the continued trickle of foreign fighters, the difficulty in securing the Iraq-Syria border, and the lack of stability in Sunni areas", the report said.

In a report released on Monday, the Pentagon Inspector General said Islamic State remained an active insurgent group and was regenerating functions and capabilities more quickly in Iraq than Syria.

Since Trump's announcement, the US military has removed some equipment and supplies from Syria, though no USA troops have left. He added that he would wait for clarifications from Washington on the numbers and nature of the USA troops' mission in his country.

The president has also vowed to pull half of the 14,000-strong American force from Afghanistan, where the U.S. has had a military presence since 2001, citing the high cost in blood and treasure.

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