US Senate votes against Trump’s withdrawal plan

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The U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to caution President Donald Trump against swift U.S. troop withdrawals from Syria and Afghanistan.

Angus King, I-Maine, to clarify if he had been consulted ahead of the president's announcement in December, Votel responded "I was not consulted".

Trump revealed his decision to withdraw all US forces from Syria in December, declaring that the USA had defeated Islamic State and no longer needed to deploy troops in Syria.

A decision on troop pullout, especially in case of Afghanistan, needs to be taken now so that its implementation could coincide with the time when the election activity in the U.S. is in full swing, and President Trump could tell the American voters that he did what he pledged, and score political points in his bid to get re-elected as president of the world's sole superpower.

That country repeatedly denounced the presence of the US military and the bombings of the coalition headed by Washington, which caused many civilian casualties.

Votel was asked at Tuesday's hearing whether he was asked for his advice about a Syria withdrawal before Trump announced his decision.

National Security Adviser John Bolton has since stated that the US will only withdraw once ISIS is defeated and the safety of allied Kurdish fighters is secured, although Trump said plans remain unchanged.

He added that territory under Islamic State's control had been reduced to less than 20 square miles (5,180 hectares) and would be recaptured by US-backed forces prior to the U.S. withdrawal, which he said would be carried out in a "deliberate and coordinated manner".

The bill would allow US states and cities to decline to do business with American companies that take part in a campaign to boycott and divest from Israel in order to pressure the Jewish state to alter its policies with regard to Palestinians and Israeli settlements.

A report by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that Islamic State has transformed into a covert network, including in its strongholds of Syria and Iraq, but is still a threat with centralized leadership, up to $300 million at its disposal and thousands of fighters.

Officials said that overall, about 2,000 ISIS militants remain in Syria. He gave no timetable for completing the mission.

The top commander of U.S. forces in West Asia, General Joseph Votel, told a Senate committee on Tuesday that of the 34,000 square miles (88,060 square kilometres) of territory that Islamic State once held, it now controls less than 20 square miles (51.7 square kilometres).

"I am not under pressure to be out by a specific date", he said, but "the fact is, the president made a decision and we are going to execute his orders here to withdraw forces from Syria and, as we do that, we're going to do that in a very deliberate manner".

"It is important to understand that even though this territory has been reclaimed, the fight against ISIS and violent extremists is not over and our mission has not changed", said Votel, TIME reports.

During the withdrawal, "We should expect that they [ISIS fighters] will attempt to attack us and regenerate themselves, and we will continue to put pressure on them to prevent that", Votel said.

According to Votel, ISIS still controls about 20 square miles in Syria, with up to 1,500 fighters.

US officials said that ISIS fighters hold only several villages in the Middle Euphrates River Valley, but added they don't expect that area to be cleared of militants for another several weeks, at best.