French special forces sent to reinforce US-led operations in Syria: US
Speaking to senior lawmakers in Washington, Mattis responded to a question about whether the United States was planning on pulling out of Syria - something President Donald Trump has said would happen “very soon.”
Right now, “we are not withdrawing,” Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee.“You’ll see a reenergized effort,” he said.
On April 24, Trump appeared to walk back his vow to yank U.S. troops from Syria, saying the United States wanted to “leave a strong and lasting footprint “ in the country.
Currently, about 2,000 US troops are in Syria, most of them commandos.Even after ISIL - which still control two pockets of territory along the middle Euphrates River Valley – is defeated, the U.S. military wants to maintain a presence in Syria to prevent the jihadists from returning.
Mattis said he wanted to see more “regional support” for the anti-ISIL fight and told lawmakers he was “confident that we would probably regret it” if the U.S. does not contribute to a long-term holding force in Syria.
France is a longstanding member of the international coalition fighting ISIL in Iraq and Syria, and helped bombard the jihadists in the Mosul area during the Iraqi operation to recapture the city.
France, along with the U.S. and Britain, also took part in the April 14 cruise missile strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons-related facilities.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., asked Mattis whether conditions on the battlefield would determine the timing of a U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria, or whether Trump is talking about a withdrawal because he’s just tired of Syria.
Mattis said a withdrawal would be based on conditions.“As you know, neither the last administration nor this administration sees itself occupying Syria,” Mattis said.
Syrian state media, meanwhile, reported that members of ISIL shelled a government-held neighborhood in Damascus, killing one civilian and wounding four.
The state news agency SANA said ISIL militants shelled the neighborhood of Qadam on April 27 as government forces and their allies pushed deeper into the nearby Hajar al-Aswad neighborhood.
The weeklong fighting in Hajar al-Aswad and the nearby Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk has killed dozens of fighters.
The area is the last district out of government control in Damascus and its capture would boost security in Syrian President Bashar Assad’s seat of power.