In a rebuke of President Donald Trump, the Republican-led US Senate advanced largely symbolic legislation on Thursday opposing plans for any abrupt withdrawal of troops from Syria and Afghanistan.
The Senate voted 68-23 in favor of a non-binding amendment, drafted by Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell saying it was the sense of the Senate that militant groups in both countries continue to pose a “serious threat” to the United States.
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 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.
Trump has decided to withdraw 2,000 US troops from Syria on the grounds that ISIS militants no longer pose a threat, saying on Twitter on Wednesday, “We have beaten them” as he disputed Senate testimony by his director of national intelligence, Dan Coats, on Tuesday that the group still posed a threat.
Trump said earlier on Thursday he would bring American troops home if a peace deal were reached to end 17 years of war in Afghanistan. The United States and the Taliban have sketched the outlines for an eventual peace accord, a US special envoy said on Monday, but there was no sign the insurgent group had accepted key US demands.