McConnell warns Trump against withdrawing troops from Syria

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellCongress pulls punches on Russian bounties firestorm Congress under pressure to provide billions for school openings Hillicon Valley: Facebook considers political ad ban | Senators raise concerns over civil rights audit | Amazon reverses on telling workers to delete TikTok MORE (R-Ky.) on Monday warned President TrumpDonald John TrumpDavis: Supreme Court decision is bad news for Trump, good news for Vance Meadows trying to root out suspected White House leakers by feeding them info: Axios Pressley hits DeVos over reopening schools: 'I wouldn't trust you to care for a house plant let alone my child' MORE against pulling U.S. forces out of key positions in Syria, arguing that it “would only benefit Russia, Iran, and the Assad regime,” which is responsible for thousands of civilian deaths. 

McConnell in a statement reminded Trump that the Senate voted earlier this year, with overwhelming Republican support, in favor of a resolution expressing strong opposition to a military withdrawal from Syria and Afghanistan.

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“The conditions that produced that bipartisan vote still exist today. While the physical caliphate has been removed, ISIS and al Qaeda remain dangerous forces in Syria and the ongoing Syrian civil war poses significant security and humanitarian risks,” McConnell stated.

“I urge the President to exercise American leadership to keep together our multinational coalition to defeat ISIS and prevent significant conflict between our NATO ally Turkey and our local Syrian counterterrorism partners,” he added. “Major new conflict between Turkey and our partners in Syria would seriously risk damaging Turkey’s ties to the United States and causing greater isolation for Turkey on the world stage.”

“As we learned the hard way during the Obama Administration, American interests are best served by American leadership, not by retreat or withdrawal,” McConnell warned on Monday.

It’s a rare break between Trump and McConnell, who is up for reelection in 2020 and has centered his campaign strategy on portraying himself as an essential ally to the president in Washington.

But the disagreement over how to handle the U.S. military presence in Syria and Afghanistan has simmered for months.

The Senate voted 70 to 26 in February for a resolution McConnell authored warning against a precipitous withdrawal of forces from the region.  

Only four Republicans voted against it: Sens. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOh, Canada: Should the US emulate Canada's National Health Service? Trump tweets his support for Goya Foods amid boycott Trump says he'll sign order with 'road to citizenship' for DACA recipients MORE (Texas), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeKoch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads Gianforte halts in-person campaigning after wife, running mate attend event with Guilfoyle Sunday shows preview: Lawmakers to address alarming spike in coronavirus cases MORE (Utah), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard Paul'Live with it' is the new GOP response to COVID — but no, we can't do that Koch-backed group urges Senate to oppose 'bailouts' of states in new ads How conservative conspiracy theories are deepening America's political divide MORE (Ky.) and John KennedyJohn Neely KennedyMORE (La.).

The issue appeared to die down in recent months as the Senate focused instead on confirming Trump’s nominees, negotiating spending bills and responding to the impeachment push in the House.

It flared unexpectedly on Monday after the White House announced Sunday night Turkey would launch an offensive in northeastern Syria and U.S. troops would not be "in the immediate area" when it happens. The move drew immediate fire Monday from GOP lawmakers, who characterized it as a green light for Turkey to launch combat operations against U.S.-allied Kurdish forces, who have waged the brunt of the fighting against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Trump said that “Turkey, Europe, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Russia and the Kurds will now have to figure the situation out” and declared “it is time for us to get out of these ridiculous Endless Wars, many of them tribal, and bring our soldiers home.”