Published: Wed, February 06, 2019
Worldwide | By Stella Potter

US Senate rebukes Trump over Syria, Afghanistan pullouts

US Senate rebukes Trump over Syria, Afghanistan pullouts

Islamic State is "regenerating key functions and capabilities more quickly in Iraq than in Syria".

Despite his assertion that the USA will return to Syria if needed, Trump is facing stiff opposition from 43 Republicans in the Senate over the pullout.

"The fight against ISIS and violent extremists is not over and our mission has not changed", Votel said.

Qais al-Khazali, the leader of Asaib Ahl al-Haq, an Iran-backed militia that has secured seats in parliament, said Monday that Iraqis can use the legislature to enforce a reduction of American forces - or use the militias to do the job. The remainder, he said, have "dispersed" and "gone to ground", suggesting they retain the potential to return.

President Donald Trump's abrupt decision to withdraw American troops from Syria shocked American military officials and USA allies alike. He added that he would wait for clarifications from Washington on the numbers and nature of the USA troops' mission in his country.

During a February 5 hearing held by the Senate Armed Services Committee, Gen. Joseph Votel explained, "I was not aware of the specific announcement".

Iraqis in the capital Baghdad said USA army forces have been walking around the city accompanied by the Iraqi army, Al-Khaleej Online reported.

Votel warned that ISIS would pose an enduring threat following a planned United States withdrawal from Syria, saying the militant group retained leaders, fighters, facilitators and resources that will fuel a menacing insurgency. "The US is a major power. but do not pursue your own policy priorities". He also ordered the Pentagon to draw up plans for a troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Trump said in a weekend interview that the caliphate is "almost knocked out".

"It's time", he said in the interview with CBS's Face the Nation.

In particular, USA support to the SDF is "vital" to that group's ongoing fight against some 2,000 ISIS fighters who are still said to be resisting tenaciously in the Middle Euphrates River Valley.

Officials said that overall, about 2,000 ISIS militants remain in Syria. And it is able to operate despite its lost territory, as a "decentralized insurgency", the report says.

"Memories of occupation are still fresh, and we're rubbing salt on that", Douglas Ollivant, a former National Security Council director for Iraq, told Al-Monitor. The outlet also noted a "growing sentiment" held by Iraqis that USA troops should go.

The resolution was sponsored by the Republican leader of the Senate Mitch McConnell, who said last week the measure "would acknowledge the plain fact that Al-Qaeda, ISIS and their affiliates in Syria and Afghanistan continue to pose a serious threat to our nation". After lamenting on the campaign trail that the US should have seized Iraqi oil fields, Trump raised to former Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi the possibility of compensating America with oil for its involvement. At the time of his visit, there were 5,000 USA troops stationed in Iraq as part of the coalition against the Islamic State.

Addressing Trump with sarcasm in remarks carried by official media, Rouhani said: "You say you stay in Iraq to watch Iran, while before that you were saying you stay there for fighting terrorism".

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