Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Photo: Reuters / Aaron P. Bernstein
US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Photo: Reuters / Aaron P Bernstein

If you were wondering what it would take for the US Congress to feel remorse for handing over sweeping war powers to the country’s executive branch, a Senate vote on Thursday may give a clue. Here’s a hint: it does not involve the president starting a war, but rather trying to end one.

Senate Republicans, led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, joined Democrats to admonish President Trump for his plans to withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan. The chamber voted 68-23 to end debate on an amendment that warns the president against the troop drawdown.

While US public opinion is largely sympathetic to extricating the military from a war in Afghanistan that has dragged on for 17 years – the longest armed conflict in American history – and pulling troops out of involvement in Syria, the president was met with widespread criticism for the abrupt policy announcement.

Trump has long promised to limit US involvement in the region, but up until recently had reportedly been talked out of pulling out troops by his cabinet officials.

That all changed when he announced that troops would be immediately withdrawn from Syria, and more recently that he would begin to do the same with forces in Afghanistan. Critics of the president who are sympathetic to the policy shift say that more planning is needed before it is implemented. Many allies of the President say that troops should stay to make sure ISIS does not see a resurgence.

“I’ve been clear about my own views on these subjects,” McConnell said before the vote on Thursday, per The Hill. “I believe the threats remain. ISIS and al Qaeda have yet to be defeated, and American national security interests require continued commitment to our mission there.”

The move marks a rare break with the president for McConnell. His comments echoed similar sentiments expressed by other lawmakers as well as Trump’s former Defense Secretary, James Mattis, who resigned when Trump announced the withdraw of troops from Syria.

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