- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley will answer questions before a key House committee next week on the Trump administration’s murky policy in Syria, House Democrats announced Tuesday.

The House Armed Services Committee hearing on Dec. 11 will be the Pentagon leaders’ first appearance before lawmakers since the initial withdrawal of American Special Operations forces from the Syria-Turkey border in early October and subsequent Turkish invasion of Syria. That withdrawal was the first in a chain of events that have cast confusion over America’s policy in Syria.

Amid the Turkish invasion, President Trump ordered most troops out of northern Syria, seemingly ending a yearslong U.S. partnership with Kurdish fighters in the war against the Islamic State. Russian forces and Syrian dictator Bashar Assad’s government troops quickly filled the power vacuum in the region.

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Mr. Trump then announced that U.S. forces would remain in Syria to guard valuable oil fields and keep them from falling under the control of the Islamic State. The president insisted that the U.S. would be getting out of Syria, with the exception of a small contingent left behind to protect the oil.

But last week American military leaders said the U.S. has “reset” inside Syria and has resumed military operations against the Islamic State, with roughly 600 troops still stationed in the country.

Mr. Esper and Gen. Milley also will have to answer questions about whether the U.S. mission to guard Syrian oil could potentially put American forces on a collision course with Moscow, should Russian troops make a play for the energy reserves.

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