McConnell warns Trump against withdrawing troops from Syria

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden says he's open to altering, eliminating filibuster to advance voting rights Pelosi says GOP senators 'voted to aid and abet' voter suppression for blocking revised elections bill Manchin insists he hasn't threatened to leave Democrats MORE (R-Ky.) on Monday warned President TrumpDonald TrumpSix big off-year elections you might be missing Twitter suspends GOP Rep. Banks for misgendering trans health official Meghan McCain to Trump: 'Thanks for the publicity' 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

“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 CruzOvernight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Colin Powell's death highlights risks for immunocompromised The Senate confirmation process is broken — Senate Democrats can fix it Australian politician on Cruz, vaccines: 'We don't need your lectures, thanks mate' MORE (Texas), Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeCawthorn, Lee introduce bills banning interstate travel vaccine mandate Retreating economy creates new hurdle for Democrats in 2022 McConnell vows GOP won't help raise debt ceiling in December after Schumer 'tantrum' MORE (Utah), Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulRand Paul calls for Fauci's firing over 'lack of judgment' Vaccine 'resisters' are a real problem Democrats fret as longshot candidates pull money, attention 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.”