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Top US Commander for Middle East Secretly Visits Syria

© REUTERS / Kevin LamarqueUS Army General Joseph Votel testifies during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Votel’s nomination to be commander of the U.S. Central Command on Capitol Hill in Washington March 9, 2016.
US Army General Joseph Votel testifies during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Votel’s nomination to be commander of the U.S. Central Command on Capitol Hill in Washington March 9, 2016. - Sputnik International
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The commander of US Central Command, responsible for the Middle East, Northern Africa and Central Asia, made a secret visit to Syria to discuss Raqqa assault.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — US Army Gen. Joseph Votel, who is the commander of US Central Command (CENTCOM), responsible for the Middle East, Northern Africa and Central Asia, made a secret visit to Syria, US media reported.

US Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL confirmed the fact that the CENTCOM commander had visited Syria.

​Votel arrived in the Middle Eastern nation for a day-long visit to attend the places, where US special operations forces were located and meet the local forces trained by US specialists, CNN reported on Saturday.

This photo released on Friday, Oct. 9, 2015 by the French Army Communications Audiovisual office (ECPAD) shows a French army Rafale fighter jet on the tarmac of an undisclosed air base as part of France's Operation Chammal launched in September 2015 in support of the US-led coalition against Islamic State group - Sputnik International
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According to the broadcaster, Votel is the highest-ranking US military official, who has visited the crisis-torn Syria, since the beginning of the civil war.

​Syria has been mired in civil war since 2011, with numerous opposition factions and Islamic extremist groups fighting the Syrian Arab Army in an attempt to topple the government of President Bashar Assad.

Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict the United States and its allies have provided military support to opposition factions they consider "moderate" and have called for Assad to resign. As part of this support, Washington has deployed several hundreds of special operations forces into Syria to train and equip moderate rebels to combat radical Islamists.

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