US Senate approves anti-BDS bill, slowdown of Syria withdrawal

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On December 19, Trump announced he was pulling 2,000 USA forces out of Syria, claiming the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group had been "defeated".

And despite Trump's claims that ISIS has been defeated, Votel said the fight against the terror group is "not over" and warned ISIS could regroup after usa troops leave.

"I was not aware of the specific announcement", Votel told the committee. But he added that he and others in the high command knew in general terms of Trump's "desire and intent in the past to depart Iraq, depart Syria".

Under questioning from senators, Votel acknowledged that he wasn't consulted before Trump's announcement that he planned to bring USA troops home from Syria "now".

USA forces invaded Iraq in 2003, and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein.

The Republican-led U.S. Senate on Monday backed largely symbolic legislation that broke with Trump by opposing plans for any abrupt withdrawal of troops from Syria and Afghanistan.

In an interview with CBS News' "Face the Nation", Trump said the USA had spent a "fortune" on the Al-Asad Air Base in western Iraq, which he visited in December, and that it was "perfectly situated" to watch different parts of the Middle East.

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"We are working through a variety of planning scenarios for how we would potentially do, continue to maintain pressure on ISIS as we withdraw out of Syria", Votel told the committee. The president later declared that he would also be pulling some 7,000 USA troops out of Afghanistan, where his administration is involved in peace talks with the Taliban-something that also got a shoutout in tonight's speech.

Trump's remarks that come weeks after the United States president sparked outrage in Iraq by visiting USA troops at Ain al-Asad base without meeting a single Iraqi official, are fuelling renewed calls for the expulsion of U.S. forces. The agreement between Washington and Baghdad is for the troops to combat terrorism, he said, and doing otherwise would be "unacceptable".

The report, citing information from U.S. Central Command, said ISIS would portray the withdrawal as a "victory" and conduct attacks on American personnel during the pullout process. If Sunni socio-economic, political, and sectarian grievances are not adequately addressed by the national and local governments of Iraq and Syria it is very likely that ISIS will have the opportunity to set conditions for future resurgence and territorial control.

According to two USA officials, the number of US personnel inside Syria has increased to 3,000 as additional personnel have entered Syria to prepare for the exit of troops and equipment.

Separately, the U.S. called on nations around the world to take back their citizens who fought for Islamic State and are now being held by the SDF in Syria.

The Pentagon's own internal watchdog released a report on Monday saying Isis remained an active insurgent group and was regenerating functions and capabilities more quickly in Iraq than Syria.

Trump is expected to speak to the gathered foreign ministers at the U.S. State Department-hosted conference on Wednesday is widely expected to reiterate and expand on his anti-ISIS message from the State of the Union, officials said.