Mattis Confirms French Troop Deployment in Syria

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Thursday that French special operations forces arrived in Syria over the past two weeks to help boost US-led efforts against the Islamic State group. "You'll see a re-energized effort against the middle Euphrates River Valley in the days ahead and against the rest of the geographic caliphate", Mattis told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, referring to territory held by the group.

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Since then, the country has been torn apart, with millions displaced internally, millions made refugees, and hundreds of thousands killed.

On whether the United States was planning on pulling out of Syria, he responded that right now, "we are not withdrawing". You'll see increased operations on the Iraqi side of the border, and the French just reinforced us in Syria with special forces here in the last two weeks. "This is an ongoing fight right now".

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Shaheen and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., asked Mattis to explain recent comments by President Donald Trump indicating the commander in chief was considering the removal of about 2,000 American troops in Syria serving as advisers to Kurdish-Arab forces battling ISIS... The senator compared such a departure to the United States withdrawal from Iraq in 2011, which officials have said contributed to the rise of ISIS across Syria and Iraq.

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U.S. airstrikes, troops and US-backed Syrian factions have dealt heavy blows to ISIS in Syria but the group still holds some areas and is widely expected to revert to guerrilla tactics if the last remnants of its once self-styled "caliphate" are captured.

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