National Security & Defense

Senate Delivers Reproach to Trump on Syria Withdrawal

U.S. military vehicles drive north of Manbij, Syria, in March 2017. (Rodi Said/Reuters)

The Senate sent a clear disapproving message to President Trump on Thursday, advancing a measure warning against a “precipitous withdrawal” of U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle voted 68 to 23 to end debate on Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell’s amendment to a larger Middle East policy bill. The upper chamber will now vote on whether to pass the amendment.

“Al Qaeda, ISIS and their affiliates in Syria and Afghanistan continue to pose a serious threat to us here at home,” the amendment reads, and urges that the Trump administration make sure conditions are met “for the enduring defeat of al Qaeda and ISIS before initiating any significant withdrawal of United States forces from Syria or Afghanistan.”

“It’s not a partisan amendment,” McConnell said. “It’s not complicated. There is no poison pill. Just an opportunity for senators to go on the record about what our country should be doing in Syria and Afghanistan.”

“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,” the majority leader said. “We’re not the world’s policemen, but we are the leaders of the free world.”

Trump caught Congress off guard with his December 19 announcement that he plans to withdraw the about 2,000 troops currently stationed in Syria, stating that the Islamic State has been defeated in the region. The controversial move drew bipartisan criticism, Republicans like Senator Lindsey Graham warning the announcement may have emboldened ISIS. Trump also promised to withdraw about half of the close to 14,000 U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan.

Several potential Democratic presidential hopefuls voted no on the amendment, Senators  Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Jeff Merkley, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren.

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