Senate Democrats raise concerns about ISIS strategy after closed-door briefing

Senate Democrats raise concerns about ISIS strategy after closed-door briefing
© Greg Nash
Senate Democrats emerged from a closed-door briefing Wednesday saying they need more details about the administration's strategy to counter ISIS in the wake of the U.S. pullback in northern Syria. 

Senators were briefed about the raid that led to the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, and broader Syria strategy. 
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Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerOvernight Health Care: Trump officials making changes to drug pricing proposal | House panel advances flavored e-cig ban | Senators press FDA tobacco chief on vaping ban Chad Wolf becomes acting DHS secretary Schumer blocks drug pricing measure during Senate fight, seeking larger action MORE (D-N.Y.) called the military mission "incredible" but that "it is clear ISIS continues." 

"They are not vanquished, they are not over. ... I believe that the administration has to do more to make sure the existing ISIS prisoners are guarded, to track down those who have escaped, and to have a far more concrete plan on how we deal with ISIS in the future," Schumer told reporters.
 
Schumer's concerns were echoed by several Democrats who attended the briefing, which marked the first all-members meeting the Senate has had since the White House announced they were pulling back troops from northern Syria. 

"I am more concerned than ever, deeply alarmed, about the threat of ISIS," Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told reporters. 

He added that al-Baghdadi's death has helped weaken ISIS, but "the resurgence of ISIS is more alarming than ever." 

Sen. Dick DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy Democratic senators introduce bill to push ICE to stop 'overuse' of solitary confinement Pentagon watchdog declines to investigate hold on Ukraine aid MORE (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, added that countering ISIS "still is our stated objective" within Syria, "but the means of achieving it are not as clear as they were before the president's phone call with Erdoğan." 
 
Trump withdrew troops from northern Syria after speaking with Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The decision led to an incursion by Turkish forces into northern Syria, where they fired upon Kurdish forces that had previously been allies of the U.S.
 
The administration has repeatedly said it didn't greenlight a Turkish military incursion, but the decision did pave the way for a military invasion. 

Wednesday’s briefing was conducted by Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperHillicon Valley: Twitter shares more details on political ad rules | Supreme Court takes up Google-Oracle fight | Pentagon chief defends Microsoft cloud contract Overnight Defense: Ex-Ukraine ambassador offers dramatic day of testimony | Talks of 'crisis' at State Department | Trump tweets criticism of envoy during hearing | Dems warn against 'witness intimidation' | Trump defends his 'freedom of speech' Esper: Pentagon contract fairly awarded to Microsoft over Amazon MORE, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph MaguireJoseph MaguireLive coverage: Ex-Ukraine ambassador testifies in public impeachment hearing Here are the key players to watch at impeachment hearing Trump has considered firing official who reported whistleblower complaint to Congress: report MORE.

"That's the best briefing I've ever been to," Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioGOP senators plan to tune out impeachment week Republicans warn election results are 'wake-up call' for Trump Paul's demand to out whistleblower rankles GOP colleagues MORE (R-Fla.) told reporters after it ended. "[But] obviously there's our enduring concerns about what our plans our strategies are." 

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGOP divided over impeachment trial strategy GOP eager for report on alleged FBI surveillance abuse Johnson opens door to subpoenaing whistleblower, Schiff, Bidens MORE (R-S.C.) called the briefing "excellent." 

The House received its own briefing on Wednesday. 

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiLouisiana governor wins re-election Dynamic scoring: Forward-thinking budgeting practices to grow our economy Pelosi: Trump tweets on Yovanovitch show his 'insecurity as an imposter' MORE (D-Calif.) said afterward that she still wants a larger Syria briefing. 

 “We had asked for a briefing on Syria, they wanted to give us a briefing on al-Baghdadi,” she told reporters after the briefing. “We welcomed that, and we congratulate our forces that did that so successfully. We still want the briefing on Syria and Turkey.”