National Security & Defense

McConnell Rebukes Trump, Urges Keeping Troops in Syria, Afghanistan

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell speaks after a Republican policy lunch on Capitol Hill, January 29, 2019. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell criticized President Trump’s foreign policy on Tuesday, introducing a measure urging a “continued commitment” of troops in Syria and Afghanistan until the Islamic State is defeated.

The Republican leader’s amendment to the Strengthening America’s Security in the Middle East Act would acknowledge that “al Qaeda, ISIS and their affiliates in Syria and Afghanistan continue to pose a serious threat to us here at home.”

“It would recognize the dangers of a precipitous withdrawal from either conflict and highlight the need for diplomatic engagement and political solutions to the underlying conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Tuesday.

On December 19, President Trump promised to withdraw the about 2,000 troops currently stationed in Syria, announcing that the Islamic State has been defeated in the region. The controversial move drew bipartisan criticism and caused defense secretary James Mattis a day later to announce his departure from the administration in protest.

Colonol Sean Ryan, spokesman for U.S. coalition forces, said in a January 11 statement that the U.S. “has begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria.

“While it is tempting to retreat to the comfort and security of our own shores, there is still a great deal of work to be done,” McConnell said. “We’re not the world’s policemen, but we are the leaders of the free world.”

The larger Middle East bill would impose new sanctions on Syria’s bank and those supporting Syria’s government as well as increasing military aid for Israel and Jordan.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats warned during a Tuesday hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee that, “ISIS is intent on resurging and still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria.”

However, acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan added that the terror group has already lost “99.5% plus” of the territory it held in Syria and Iraq.

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