REUTERS, 17th FEBRUARY, 2019 - The general overseeing U.S. forces in the Middle East flew into Iraq on Sunday for talks with U.S. and Iraqi officials expected to focus on ensuring that Islamic State cannot stage a resurgence after U.S. troops withdraw from neighbouring Syria.
U.S. Army General Joseph Votel, head of the U.S. Central Command, made no remarks to reporters upon landing in Iraq, where he was expected to get battlefield briefings on the final push to retake the remnants of Islamic State’s once vast territory in Syria. Votel was also expected to discuss with officials in Baghdad what impact the U.S. withdrawal might have on Iraq, where Islamic State has already shifted to guerrilla hit-and-run tactics after losing all its territory.
Votel has said he does not expect President Donald Trump’s withdrawal of more than 2,000 troops from Syria to significantly alter U.S. troop levels in Iraq, where the United States has more than 5,000 forces. Those force numbers would stay “more or less steady,” he said.”We will want to make sure that we get the right capabilities on the ground to support the Iraqis going forward,” Votel told reporters travelling with him last week.