Retired four-star Army Gen. David Petraeus on Tuesday returned to Capitol Hill for the first time since he resigned three years ago as CIA director amid revelations of an extramarital affair.
Much of his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee focused on sweeping recommendations for changing the U.S. strategy in the Middle East, in part by having the U.S. military take on a bigger role in war-torn Syria.
But the former commander of U.S. troops in Iraq and later Afghanistan also included an interesting statement that seemed to corroborate what Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, head of Central Command, recently said regarding American commandos being on the ground in Syria.
In testimony before the same committee last week, Austin said, "What our special operations forces have done in northern Syria is they didn't wait for the New Syrian Force program or train and equip program to fully develop."
Austin added, "At the very onset, they began to engage elements like the YPG and enable those elements, and they are making a difference on the battlefield." (The YPG stands for the Peoples' Protection Units, the armed wing of the Syrian Democratic Union, an important Kurdish opposition party in Syria.)
Later that day, CentCom issued a correction and underscored that no U.S. troops were in Syria. But on Tuesday, Petraeus testified, "We've already put boots on the ground in Syria, special mission troops."
Petraeus' testimony comes as Russia is accelerating its military buildup in the country. Newly released commercial satellite imagery clearly shows four big Su-30SM Flanker-C and 12 smaller Su-25 Frogfoot fighter jets parked Sept. 20 at the al-Assad International Airport in Syria, among other weaponry.