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Senate backs McConnell rebuke of Trump military drawdowns

Former ISIS envoy: Trump's "total reversal" forced resignation

The Republican-led Senate delivered a strong — albeit non-binding — rebuke to President Trump Thursday over his decision to swiftly draw down troops in Afghanistan and Syria. The Senate voted 68-23 to back an amendment proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell opposing the swift withdrawal of troops. 

The move was a rare showing of opposition from Republican senators who consistently side with the president, revealing a possible breaking point for Senate Republicans who view some of the president's foreign policy approaches as dangerous. Specifically, the amendment asserts that the U.S. faces continued threats from terrorist groups in Syria and Afghanistan, and a quick withdrawal of U.S. forces could risk those gains and national security. 

The Senate vote also comes as the president openly mocked his top intelligence officials, telling them in a tweet Wednesday that they should "go back to school." At a hearing this week, the CIA, FBI and National Intelligence directors offered assessments of national security areas including North Korea, Iran and ISIS in Syria that substantially differed from statements made by the Trump administration and the president.

The amendment the Senate passed Thursday is non-binding, meaning it is symbolic. It's attached to a larger Middle East policy bill that hasn't yet passed the Senate and could face an uphill battle in the House. But, in the words of McConnell, the vote allowed senators the opportunity "to go on the record about what the United States should be doing in Syria and Afghanistan." 

A number of the president's strongest allies, including Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., have publicly broken with the president over the proposed swift withdrawals. Graham called pulling out of Syria "an Obama-like mistake." 

In December, the president claimed ISIS had been defeated in Syria. Earlier this month, however, four American troops were killed in Syria. The president's stance on Syria has influenced the exits of top administration officials. 

Mr. Trump differed with former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on how to approach Syria, and Mattis announced his departure in December. Brett McGurk, the top U.S. envoy in the fight against ISIS, resigned, citing his sharp disagreement with the president over Syria. 

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