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 SchumerChuck SchumerPelosi orders Capitol flags at half-staff to honor Ginsburg Ginsburg in statement before her death said she wished not to be replaced until next president is sworn in Democrats call for NRA Foundation to be prohibited from receiving donations from federal employees 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 DurbinMcConnell focuses on confirming judicial nominees with COVID-19 talks stalled Senate Republicans signal openness to working with Biden Top GOP senator calls for Biden to release list of possible Supreme Court picks 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 EsperTop admiral: 'No condition' where US should conduct nuclear test 'at this time' Overnight Defense: Trump hosts Israel, UAE, Bahrain for historic signing l Air Force reveals it secretly built and flew new fighter jet l Coronavirus creates delay in Pentagon research for alternative to 'forever chemicals' Oldest living US World War II veteran turns 111 MORE, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph MaguireJoseph MaguireCongressional Democrats request FBI briefing on foreign election interference efforts Wells Fargo told employees to delete TikTok from work phones Hillicon Valley: Pompeo floats TikTok ban | Civil rights groups slam Facebook after call | Election security funding included in proposal MORE.

"That's the best briefing I've ever been to," Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioFlorida senators pushing to keep Daylight Savings Time during pandemic Hillicon Valley: DOJ indicts Chinese, Malaysian hackers accused of targeting over 100 organizations | GOP senators raise concerns over Oracle-TikTok deal | QAnon awareness jumps in new poll Intelligence chief says Congress will get some in-person election security briefings 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 GrahamSenate Republicans face tough decision on replacing Ginsburg Democratic senator calls for eliminating filibuster, expanding Supreme Court if GOP fills vacancy What Senate Republicans have said about election-year Supreme Court vacancies MORE (R-S.C.) called the briefing "excellent." 

The House received its own briefing on Wednesday. 

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiPelosi: Ginsburg successor must uphold commitment to 'equality, opportunity and justice for all' Bipartisan praise pours in after Ginsburg's death Pelosi orders Capitol flags at half-staff to honor Ginsburg 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.”