US forces deployed in Syria will remain in the country after ISIS defeat to ensure the terror group does not reemerge and proceed with a political resolution of the conflict, Central Command (CENTCOM) commander Gen. Joseph Votel said in a congressional testimony on Tuesday.
“When we have completed our mission here in Syria, it involves not only kicking ISIS [Daesh] out of the areas which they occupied, but also includes consolidation of gains and the stability that allows us to move forward with a political resolution,” Votel told the US House of Representatives Armed Services Committee.
Votel confirmed that the reason for the US military being in Syria is to defeat Daesh.
“The principal thing will be to ensure that ISIS [Daesh] does not reemerge.”
The CENTCOM commander explained that moving forward, the US military will continue to support partners on the ground to ensure that liberated areas are stabilized and that displaced people and humanitarian aid organizations return.
“And this is about creating a security environment that allows that and provides the time for our diplomats to pursue the solution that we are seeking through the United Nations in Syria,” Votel said.
When asked about the legal justification for the US military to be in Syria after Daesh is defeated, Votel said it is a fact the terror group is still present in the country and the US military is dealing with it.
“With regard to your question on the legal authority, again, I would cite the principal legal authority here was self-defense of Iraq in terms of this and the unwillingness and inability of the Syrian regime to address this particular threat that posed a threat to not just the country of Syria and Iraq, but to a broader group of countries around the world,” Votel said.
Currently, nearly 2,000 US troops are operating in Syria despite the fact that neither the Syrian government nor the UN Security Council has authorized their presence in the country.