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US Senate chief rebukes Trump over Syria pullout
[WASHINGTON] The Republican leader of the US Senate, Mitch McConnell, has delivered a rare rebuke of Donald Trump in legislation Thursday that questions the president's decision to pull US troops out of Syria.
The amendment to a broader Middle East Policy bill easily passed a preliminary procedural vote Thursday 68 to 23, with substantial support from both Democrats and Republicans.
Mr McConnell, who rarely criticizes Mr Trump openly, said earlier this week that the amendment "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."
"It would recognise the danger 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," he said.
The amendment has no real impact on policy, but signifies the broad opposition even in Mr Trump's own party to a rapid removal of US troops from Syria, which the president announced in December.
Ahead of the preliminary vote, Republicans Senator Marco Rubio said Mr Trump's planned withdrawal was a "bad idea."
"That announcement alone has undermined our credibility in the eyes of our allies," he added.
Mr Trump has come under mounting pressure from both parties and the bureaucracy over a number of his foreign policy measures.
On Tuesday the top US intelligence chief said the Islamic State group still has "thousands" of fighters that it can rebuild into a cohesive force in any vacuum left in the war-torn country.
But a day later, Mr Trump took issue with that challenge to his stance, calling his intelligence chiefs "extremely passive and naive," adding: "Perhaps Intelligence should go back to school!"