Thwarting Trump, Senate advances legislation on Syria troops

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The amendment, which is now sailing toward easy final passage, was authored by one of Trump's fiercest and most powerful allies: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

Both the Islamic State and al-Qaeda are recognized as "a global threat, which merits increased worldwide contributions to the counterterrorism, diplomatic and stabilization efforts underway in Syria and Afghanistan", according to the amendment.

The popular democratic socialist politician has also sought to push forward a bill calling for an end to USA military support for the Saudi-led war against a Zaidi Shiite Muslim rebel group known as Ansar Allah or the Houthis in Yemen, but the measure has split Republicans, with McConnell and Rubio among those opposed.

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Experts have warned that a total USA withdrawal from Syria, which is still embroiled in a chaotic civil war spawned eight years ago by protests against dictator Bashar al-Assad, would advance the interests of Iran and Russian Federation.

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 Islamic militant groups in both countries continue to pose a "serious threat" to the United States.

"It would recognize the danger of a precipitous withdrawal from either conflict, and highlight the need for diplomatic engagement and political solutions to the underlying conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan", McConnell said earlier in the week. "That's why this [troop withdrawals] is a very bad idea". But the vote is nonetheless an unmistakable sign of Republicans' growing frustrations with the president, particularly when it comes to some of the decisions he has made as commander in chief.

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That measure, titled the "Combatting BDS Act", is opposed by rights groups and some Democrats who say it infringes on free speech.

Though many Democrats have argued that the US should eventually withdraw from the conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan, around half of them supported McConnell's resolution. 56 senators voted in December to end US assistance to the Saudi-led coalition waging a war in Yemen, a conflict where farms and food stores have allegedly been deliberately targeted to trigger civilian famines.

Senator Bernie Sanders, Independent of Vermont, said he thinks Trump announced the withdrawals too abruptly, but the United States has been in Afghanistan and Syria for too long.

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"What McConnell is saying is let's maintain the status quo", said independent Senator Bernie Sanders, who also acknowledged that he believed Trump made the announcements too abruptly. If it advances, it would be added to a broader foreign policy bill that includes a measure to "combat" boycotts of Israel.

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