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Senate Dems raise concerns about ISIS strategy after closed-door briefing

Senate Democrats emerged from a closed-door briefing Wednesday saying they need more details about the administration’s strategy to counter ISIS in the wake of the U.S. pullback in northern Syria. 

Senators were briefed about the raid that led to the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS, and broader Syra strategy. 

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) called the military mission “incredible” but that “it is clear ISIS continues.” 

“They are not vanquished, they are not over. …I believe that the Administration has to do more to make sure the existing ISIS  prisoners are guarded, to track down those who have escaped, and to have a far more concrete plan on how we deal with ISIS in the future,” Schumer told reporters.
 
Schumer’s concerns were echoed by several Democrats who attended the briefing, which marked the first all-members meeting the Senate has had since the White House announced they were pulling back troops from northern Syria. 

“I am more concerned than ever, deeply alarmed, about the threat of ISIS,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) told reporters. 

He added that Baghdadi’s death has helped weaken ISIS, but “the resurgence of ISIS is more alarming than ever.” 

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Schumer’s No. 2, added that countering ISIS “still is our stated objective” within Syria, “but the means of achieving it are not as clear as they were before the president’s phone call with Erdogan.” 

 
Trump withdrew troops from northern Syria after speaking with Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The decision led to an incursion by Turkish forces into northern Syria, where they fired upon Kurdish forces that had previously been allies of the U.S.
 
The administration has repeatedly said it didn’t greenlight a Turkish military incursion, but the decision did pave the way for a military invasion. 

Wednesday’s briefing was conducted by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley and acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire.

“That’s the best briefing I’ve ever been to,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) told reporters after it ended. “[But] obviously there’s our enduring concerns about what our plans our strategies are.” 

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) called the briefing “excellent.” 

The House received its own briefing on Wednesday. 

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said afterward that she still wants a larger Syria briefing. 

 “We had asked for a briefing on Syria, they wanted to give us a briefing on al-Baghdadi,” she told reporters after the briefing. “We welcomed that, and we congratulate our forces that did that so successfully. We still want the briefing on Syria and Turkey.”

 

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