Senate opposes withdrawal from Syria and Afghanistan

Republican-led Senate advances largely symbolic legislation opposing plans for any abrupt withdrawal of troops from Syria and Afghanistan.

Ben Ariel ,

US Capitol
US Capitol

The Republican-led US Senate on Thursday advanced largely symbolic legislation opposing plans for any abrupt withdrawal of troops from Syria and Afghanistan, Reuters reports.

The Senate voted 68-23 in favor of an amendment drafted by Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying it was the sense of the Senate that Islamist groups in both countries continue to pose a “serious threat” to the United States.

While the move is viewed as a rebuke of President Donald Trump, it is non-binding.

The procedural vote to cut off debate meant that the amendment would be added to a broader Middle East security bill likely to come up for a final Senate vote next week.

The amendment acknowledges progress against Islamic State (ISIS) and Al-Qaeda in Syria and Afghanistan but warns that “a precipitous withdrawal” without effective efforts to secure gains could destabilize the region and create a vacuum that could be filled by Iran or Russia.

It calls upon the Trump administration to certify conditions have been met for the groups’ “enduring defeat” before any significant withdrawal from Syria or Afghanistan.

In December, Trump unexpectedly announced that he would pull US troops out of Syria.

Trump had initially called for a 30-day timeframe to complete the pullout, but after meeting with South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, Trump agreed to delay completion of the withdrawal.

Thursday’s Senate action marked the second time in two months that the Republican-led Senate has supported a measure going against Trump’s foreign policy, although legislation to change his policies has yet to become law.

Trump’s decision to withdraw 2,000 US troops from Syria is on the grounds that ISIS no longer poses a threat.

The President has argued that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan can eradicate what is left of ISIS in Syria after US troops leave.