ISIS regrouping quicker in Iraq than Syria, says US-led coalition

39;I was not consulted' on Syria pullout US general

The top commander of US forces in the Middle East, Gen. Joseph Votel, also told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that of the 88,000 square kilometres of territory ISIS once held, it now controls less than 52 square kilometres.

Angus King, I-Maine, to clarify if he had been consulted ahead of the president's announcement in December, Votel responded "I was not consulted".

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.

Votel's statement appears to be the first confirmation on the record from anyone in the high command that Trump's order to pull out from Syria blindsided the military in its mission to inflict a lasting defeat on the Islamic State.

That country repeatedly denounced the presence of the US military and the bombings of the coalition headed by Washington, which caused many civilian casualties.

Iraq's president also rejected Trump's remarks, saying the US does not have permission to use the country as a listening station. Former U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis also resigned shortly after Trump's withdrawal decision.

Votel responded, "We were not - I was not consulted".

A source close to Trump said the president will declare the militant group all but defeated and will discuss his planned Syria drawdown.

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The bill would allow USA states and cities to decline to do business with American companies that take part in a campaign to boycott and divest from Israel in order to pressure the Jewish state to alter its policies with regard to Palestinians and Israeli settlements. "Certainly we are aware that he has expressed a desire and an intent in the past to depart Syria".

Votel said the USA withdrawal from Syria would be cautious and deliberate, and noted that IS are still not beaten.

He said between 1,000 to 1,500 IS fighters remain in that area, though noted thousands more had "gone to ground" elsewhere in Syria.

"It is important to understand that even though this territory has been reclaimed, the fight against ISIS and violent extremists is not over and our mission has not changed", Gen Votel said.

"We do have to keep pressure on this network".

The U.S. -led coalition has been engaged in an operation to drive out the IS militants from their last stronghold in the eastern Euphrates region in eastern Syria.

"The coalition's hard-won battlefield gains can only be secured by maintaining a vigilant offensive against a now largely dispersed and disaggregated ISIS that retains leaders, fighters, facilitators, resources, and the profane ideology that fuels their efforts", Votel said.

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