WASHINGTON, Aug. 31 (UPI) -- Gen. Joseph Votel, commander of U.S. Central Command, said Islamic State militants in Syria defied their leader's order to fight to the death -- retreating instead.
Votel said the incident occurred in the Syrian town of Manbij, which was recently liberated from the control of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, Daesh and ISIL.
When speaking about the leadership of the militant Islamist group, Votel said Islamic State leader Abu Bakr Al-Bagdadi ordered "his fighters to fight to the death."
"Obviously, they didn't. So they didn't follow his direction, which may be an indication of -- of the state of ISIL, at least in some cases here," Votel said during a briefing at the Pentagon. "I do think there is direction coming from the centralized leadership. But again, we have to respect our enemy and we have to recognize that ... he has leadership at the lower level that is also going to continue to make decisions down there ... about what they're doing."
Votel also said he believes Iraqi security forces "are on track" to recapture the Iraqi city of Mosul away from Islamic State control by the end of 2016, but warned of a "tough fight" in the "heart of the caliphate." He predicted the Islamic State will likely use improvised explosive devices and human shields in its defense of Iraq's second-largest city.