Mattis on CBS Face the Nation and discussed the decision to withdraw from Iraq which was made by the previous US administration.
“[The] administration had made the decision to leave Iraq despite what the intelligence community was telling us would happen. They were very clear that an Al-Qeada associated group would rise, that the Iraq government and the Iraqi people and the Iraqi nation was in post-combat pre-reconciliation phase. We needed to keep our influence there a little longer, drawdown year by year, not draw everyone out at one time. The intelligence community was very clear, they forecasted the rise of a group you and I know as ISIS, and we should have taken their advice on board.”
He was speaking about his book Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead which has been in the works for years. Mattis has many years of experience dealing with Iraq, from 2003 and later as head of Central Command from 2010 to 2013. This was during the US withdrawal from Iraq. He served as US Secretary of Defense from January 2017 to January 2019 but resigned in December 2018 when US President Donald Trump announced the US would leave Syria.
The comments about Iraq clearly informed his view on Syria in 2018. He likely felt that a withdrawal at that point would lead to instability and the resurgence of ISIS. In fact even with ISIS largely defeated in March 2019 the huge number of pro-ISIS supporters detained have now shown resilience in keeping the ideology together and continuing to post a threat. Even if the US remains in Syria with a small footprint it is not clear what will happen.