While President Donald Trump battles through an impeachment inquiry and against critics on both sides of the political aisle who have condemned his latest move to pull U.S. special operations troops out of northeastern Syria, one of his former cabinet members broke their silence on the matter in an interview set to air on NBC’s Meet The Press.
According to Politico, former Secretary of Defense James Mattis made his first public remarks on the highly controversial military maneuver that critics say left U.S.-friendly Kurdish forces essentially as sitting ducks for a Turkish military invasion.
Expressing concern over the move, Mattis also sent a clear warning about what will likely take place after the troop pullout — similar to what happened after former President Barack Obama pulled troops out of Iraq.
“You can pull your troops out, as President Obama learned the hard way, out of Iraq but the ‘enemy gets the vote’ as we say in the military. And in this case, if we don’t keep the pressure on then ISIS will resurge. It’s — it’s absolutely a given that they will come back,” Mattis told NBC.
The former U.S. Marine Corps general’s thoughts on the situation are especially relevant, given that he resigned from his post as defense secretary in December of 2018, just days after Trump had announced a similar U.S. troop pullout in Syria — a move that was later partly reversed.
Mattis also expressed the utter importance of keeping pressure on Islamic State fighters so that they don’t have a chance to regain their previous strength in the region.
“I think Secretary of State Pompeo, the intelligence services, the foreign countries that are working with us have it about right that ISIS is not defeated. We have got to keep the pressure on ISIS so they don’t recover,” Mattis said.
The matter in Syria escalated quickly after the country’s military dropped bombs on U.S. special forces who remained in the area, though they later called the bombing a mistake, according to The Inquisitr. There have also been reports of Kurdish casualties as a result of losing U.S. troop support by order of the president, which has caused an uproar both at home and abroad.
In retaliation for any further actions against U.S. forces by Turkey, Trump recently threatened the country with harsh sanctions, though many in Congress weren’t impressed with the president’s threat of potentially leveling economic sanctions against them.
Some of Trump’s most high-profile Republican supporters, including Sen. Lindsey Graham and House Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have criticized the president’s actions.