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US Senate vote rebukes Trump on Syria, Afghanistan

Washington: In a bipartisan rebuke to President Donald Trump, the Senate voted 68-23 to advance an amendment that would oppose withdrawal of US troops from Syria and Afghanistan.

The amendment says the Daesh and Al-Qaeda militants still pose a serious threat to the United States, and it warns that “a precipitous withdrawal” of US forces from those countries could “allow terrorists to regroup, destabilise critical regions and create vacuums that could be filled by Iran or Russia.”

 

Trump abruptly tweeted plans for a US pullout from Syria in December, arguing that the Daesh had been defeated even though his intelligence chiefs have said the group remains a threat.

Trump also ordered the military to develop plans to remove up to half of the 14,000 US forces in Afghanistan.

McConnell didn’t frame the measure as a reproach to the president, but he said before the vote that “I’ve been clear about my own views on these subjects.”
He said he believes the threats remain.

“ISIS (Daesh) and Al-Qaeda have yet to be defeated,” McConnell said. “And American national security interests require continued commitment to our missions there.”

The vote is the latest indication of deepening cracks between the Republican Senate and Trump on foreign policy matters. Similar rifts exist within Trump’s own administration, evident this week when the heads of major US intelligence agencies testified to the Senate and contradicted him on the strength of the Daesh and several other foreign policy matters.

Trump’s announcement on Syria, meanwhile, prompted the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis.

TRT World spoke to Paolo von Schirach, President of the Global Policy Institute for his analysis.

McConnell’s amendment, which is non-binding, would encourage cooperation between the White House and Congress to develop long-term strategies in both nations, “including a thorough accounting of the risks of withdrawing too hastily.”

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., argued in support of the amendment on the Senate floor, saying Trump’s withdrawal announcement has already undermined US credibility in the region.

“This is being used against us right now,” Rubio said. “This is a very dangerous situation. That’s why this is a very bad idea.”

Though many Democrats have argued that the US should eventually withdraw from the conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan, around half of them supported McConnell’s resolution.