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McConnell announces proposal appealing US troops to stay in Syria, Afghanistan


Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell is pursuing an amendment to a Middle East policy bill that would acknowledge the "al Qaeda, ISIS and their affiliates in Syria and Afghanistan continue to pose a serious threat to us here at home," a move in opposition to President Donald Trump's push for the withdrawal of US troops from Syria.
"It would recognize the dangers of a precipitous withdrawal from either conflict and highlight the need for diplomatic engagement and political solutions to the underlying conflicts in Syria and Afghanistan," CNN quoted McConnell saying on Tuesday as he announced the amendment, which is currently being debated.
A timeline for the final voting for the amendment, which currently has bipartisan support, is yet to be ascertained.
"While it is tempting to retreat to the comfort and security of our own shores, there is still a great deal of work to be done, we're not the world's policemen, but we are the leaders of the free world," McConnell added.
On December 19, Trump ordered the withdrawal of troops from Syria, a move which garnered criticisms from both parties. He has since extended the initial 30-day deadline for the withdrawal to four months.
"I never said we're doing it quickly, but we're decimating ISIS," he said.
Earlier this month, National Security Advisor John Bolton said that the US will only withdraw its troops from Syria if Turkey gives assurances that it will not attack Kurdish allies there.
In a statement on January 11, spokesperson for the US-led coalition, Col Sean Ryan confirmed that the coalition "has begun the process of our deliberate withdrawal from Syria". He did not provide any further details.
In a landslide 74-19 vote on Monday, the Senate pushed for opening debates on a Middle East bill that includes new sanctions on Syria.
The Strengthening America's Security in the Middle East Act encompasses five bills in a package and includes fresh sanctions against Syria's central bank and individuals backing the Syrian government.
The Act also bolsters military support for Jordan and Israel, two US allies neighbouring Syria.
Earlier, Dan Coats, the Director of National Intelligence, told members of the Senate Intelligence Committee that ISIS "has returned to its guerrilla warfare roots while continuing to plot attacks and direct its supporters worldwide".
He also underscored that the terror outfit remained prevalent in Iraq and Syria.
"ISIS is intent on resurging and still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria," he added.
At the same hearing, Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said that ISIS has lost "99.5 per cent plus" of the territory it held in Syria and Iraq, adding that "within a couple of weeks it will be 100 per cent".
"ISIS is no longer able to govern in Syria, ISIS no longer has freedom to mass forces, Syria is no longer a safe haven," he said.
Shanahan's comments came in the wake of the US intelligence community releasing their Worldwide Threat Assessment, which found that "ISIS very likely will continue to pursue external attacks from Iraq and Syria against regional and Western adversaries, including the United States".

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First Published: Jan 30 2019 | 5:50 AM IST

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