Republican-led Senate Breaks With Trump Over Syria, Afghanistan Pullout

Largely symbolic legislation passed by a wide margin warns that 'precipitous withdrawal' could destabilize the region and allow Russia and Iran greater influence

Reuters
Reuters
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell arrives at the U.S. Capitol before a vote on the "Strengthening America's Security In The Middle East Act," February 4, 2019.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell arrives at the U.S. Capitol before a vote on the "Strengthening America's Security In The Middle East Act," February 4, 2019.Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP
Reuters
Reuters

The Republican-led U.S. Senate backed largely symbolic legislation on Monday that broke with President Donald Trump by opposing plans for any abrupt withdrawal of troops from Syria and Afghanistan.

The Senate voted 70-26 in favor of a non-binding amendment, drafted by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, saying it was the sense of the Senate that Islamist militant groups in both countries still pose a "serious threat" to the United States.

The amendment acknowledged progress against Islamic State and al Qaeda in Syria and Afghanistan but warned that "a precipitous withdrawal" could destabilize the region and create a vacuum that could be filled by Iran or Russia.

>> The absence of strategy in Washington's Syria policy | Analysis

It called on the Trump administration to certify conditions had been met for the groups' "enduring defeat" before any significant withdrawal from Syria or Afghanistan.

Before the vote, McConnell said he introduced the bill so the Senate could "speak clearly and directly about the importance of the" missions in Afghanistan and Syria.

Passage was expected, after the Senate voted to advance it in a procedural vote last week. After concerns from some Democrats, the Senate approved a change to the bill making it clear the amendment was not intended to be a declaration of war or authorization to use military force.

The vote added the amendment to a broader Middle East security bill making its way through Congress. The Senate voted 72-24 to advance the broader bill in a procedural vote on Monday after the amendment vote.

To become law, however, the bill would need to pass the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, where it is unlikely to move without significant changes because of concerns about a provision addressing the boycott, divest and sanctions movement concerned with Israel's treatment of the Palestinians.

The votes marked the second time in two months that the Senate supported a measure contradicting Trump's foreign policy, although legislation to change his policies has yet to become law.

Several of Trump's fellow Republicans strongly disagreed with his plans to withdraw 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria on the grounds that militants no longer pose a threat.

Senator Jim Risch, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, disputed before Monday's vote that the amendment rebuked or insulted Trump. "As I read it, it recognizes ... his effort for us to examine exactly what we are doing in these places," Risch said.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.
From $1 for the first month

SUBSCRIBE
Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

The Orion nebula, photographed in 2009 by the Spitzer Telescope.

What if the Big Bang Never Actually Happened?

Relatives mourn during the funeral of four teenage Palestinians from the Nijm family killed by an errant rocket in Jabalya in the northern Gaza Strip, August 7.

Why Palestinian Islamic Jihad Rockets Kill So Many Palestinians

בן גוריון

'Strangers in My House': Letters Expelled Palestinian Sent Ben-Gurion in 1948, Revealed

AIPAC

AIPAC vs. American Jews: The Toxic Victories of the 'pro-Israel' Lobby

Bosnian Foreign Minister Bisera Turkovic speaks during a press conference in Sarajevo, Bosnia in May.

‘This Is Crazy’: Israeli Embassy Memo Stirs Political Storm in the Balkans

Hamas militants take part in a military parade in Gaza.

Israel Rewards Hamas for Its Restraint During Gaza Op