Trump allies in Senate lash out over troop withdrawal plans

Minnie Murray
February 2, 2019

The Republican-controlled Senate advanced an amendment urging the continue the fight against Islamic State and al-Qaeda in Syria and Afghanistan and avoid any "precipitous withdrawal' from those conflicts, marking a rare break with President Donald Trump".

The move was a rare showing of opposition from Republican senators who consistently side with the president, revealing a possible breaking point for Senate Republicans who view some of the president's foreign policy approaches as unsafe.

The amendment is non-binding but carries a blunt message to the commander-in-chief: "The on-going fight against these groups, without effective, countervailing efforts to secure gains in Syria and Afghanistan, could allow terrorists to regroup, destabilize critical regions, and create vacuums that could be filled by Iran or Russian Federation to the detriment of United States interests and our allies", that amendment states. The resolution was sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is often in the president's corner.

"I offered a straightforward amendment to allow for a straightforward debate about the Senate's continued commitment to ongoing missions in Syria and Afghanistan", McConnell, R-Ky., said from the Senate floor ahead of Thursday's vote.

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

At first, President Trump hit back at America's top spies, insisting they're wrong. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said in a statement Thursday.

"Congress doesn't have to have to cosign Trump foreign policy trial balloons, but they ought to articulate their own responsible withdrawal plan that replaces USA troops and airstrikes with smart diplomacy and targeted humanitarian aid".

"Syria was loaded with ISIS until I came along", he added.

"Senator McConnell's amendment is a shot across the bow of the Trump team from the majority of the Republican party that favours active United States engagement in global affairs", Nicholas Heras, a senior fellow at Center for New American Security, told The National.

A day before the Senate has a key vote on the Syria amendment, McConnell went to the floor to blast unnamed Democrats for filibustering the measure.

"It's time to bring our troops home from Afghanistan and Syria", Paul wrote in a tweet, saying he stands with Trump. We all saw that the day that he said it.

"This amendment is not the right way for us to proceed as a means of correcting Trump's backward policies", Sen.

A final vote on the overall bill is not expected before next week. Talk of an impulsive pullout from Syria has incited fears of an ISIS resurgence there, as well as growing concern for the safety of Kurdish fighters who have partnered with US forces.

The latest development comes after a bipartisan group of eight US House lawmakers introduced two bills on Wednesday that would prevent the Trump administration from completely withdrawing soldiers from Syria and South Korea. They don't want to withdraw troops from countries where threats from terrorists remain strong, despite ongoing efforts that have diminished their power.

The U.S. -led war in Afghanistan began in October 2001, weeks after the 9/11 attacks were conducted by the then-dominant Taliban's Al-Qaeda ally.

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