Top special ops official says Mattis was right to oppose Syria pullout

By Tony Bertuca  
February 6, 2019 at 2:19 PM

One day after the top American commander in the Middle East told Congress he was not consulted before President Trump announced his decision to begin pulling U.S. troops out of Syria, the Pentagon's top civilian in charge of special operations has told lawmakers that former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis was right to oppose Trump's planned withdrawal.

During a House Armed Services Committee hearing, Owen West, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, was asked by Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) whether Mattis was wrong when he disagreed with Trump's decision.

"No, sir," West said.

Mattis resigned in December. Despite the former defense secretary's intention to remain at his post until the end of February, Trump said he would be out by Jan. 1.

Additionally, West told lawmakers the United States does not need to be "collocated" with Syrian rebels to keep the pressure on the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, but conceded that "militarily, we will be less effective" without troops on the ground.

Yesterday, Gen. Joseph Votel, the chief of U.S. Central Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee he was "not consulted" before Trump announced his intention to begin pulling troops out of Syria.

Similarly, West told the House Armed Services Committee today that he was not aware of the "strategic thinking" that went into Trump decision.

"I know that we've been issued an order to deliberately withdraw," he said.

Votel, meanwhile, told senators that Trump has set no "specific conditions" for withdrawal and that he is "under no pressure to be out by a specific date."

During his State of the Union address, Trump said it was time to give U.S. soldiers who have been deployed to Syria a "warm welcome home."

"Great nations do not fight endless wars," he said.