BLINDSIDED

Top U.S. General in Mideast Wasn’t Consulted on Syria Withdrawal

Army General Joseph Votel, the U.S. regional commander in the Middle East and South Asia, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that he “was not consulted” by President Donald Trump ahead of Trump’s December decision to withdraw the approximately 2,000 U.S. forces from Syria. Votel said that he was “aware” that Trump “expressed a desire in the past to withdraw from Syria,” but he was “not aware of the specific announcement.” Votel will next month step down from U.S. Central Command, where he has been in charge of the war against the Islamic State since 2016. He told senators that withdrawal will occur in a “deliberate and coordinated manner,” with its details still under development. Votel also agreed with Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) that withdrawal from Syria will reduce some of the military pressure on ISIS, which he described as a “resilient network.”

—Spencer Ackerman