Senate passes pro-Israel bill, measure also rebukes Trump

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Tuesday that President Donald Trump's expressed wish to keep USA forces in Iraq in order to monitor neighboring Iran has exposed American "lies" about fighting terrorism.

"I was not aware of the specific announcement", General Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, told the House Armed Services Committee Tuesday, according to CNN.

A top U.S. general warned on Tuesday that Islamic State would pose an enduring threat following a planned American withdrawal from Syria, saying the militant group retained leaders, fighters, facilitators and resources that will fuel a menacing insurgency.

Despite Trump's order to withdraw, American officials maintain that the goal remains the "enduring defeat" of ISIS and are moving ahead with a long-planned meeting of top diplomats from the 79-member USA -led coalition this week.

ISIS "remains a potent force of battle-hardened and well-disciplined fighters that could likely resurge in Syria absent continued counterterrorism pressure", the report from the inspector general said.

Donald Trump had said the ISIS had been defeated in Syria and said all U.S. troops were "coming back now".

Votel praises efforts by Iraq's security forces and a US -backed coalition of Syrian fighters known as the Syrian Democratic Force.

The Islamic State group has lost territory since Trump's surprise announcement in December that he was pulling USA forces out, but military officials warn that the fighters could regroup within six months to a year after the Americans leave.

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Trump was severely criticized by American politicians for his decision to withdraw troops from Syrian territory, while some versions of the reason for the measure were discussed.

Votel responded, "We were not - I was not consulted".

The highly respected Votel, former head of the Joint Special Operations Command, also appears to be at odds with Trump on the resiliency of ISIS and the terror group's ability to surge again once US troops leave.

The report, citing information from US Central Command, said Islamic State would portray the withdrawal as a "victory" and conduct attacks on American personnel during the pullout process.

Addressing Trump with sarcasm in remarks carried by official media, Rouhani said: "You say you stay in Iraq to watch Iran, while before that you were saying you stay there for fighting terrorism".

It also says that it is likely ISIS will continue to carry out opportunistic hit-and-run attacks on USA forces and use them to claim "victory" in the media.

Officials say that overall, there are about 2,000 Islamic State militants in Syria.

The Pentagon's own internal watchdog released a report on Monday saying Islamic State remained an active insurgent group and was regenerating functions and capabilities more quickly in Iraq than in Syria. The aim of the conference is to recommit the coalition to that aim and ensure that the departure of United States troops does not overly complicate that mission.

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