WASHINGTON, D.C. — Sen. Rand Paul accused his Senate colleagues Monday of being warmongers and serving in a “war caucus” —as fellow Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell led a bid to protest the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan.
“What is the one thing that brings Republicans and Democrats together?” Paul asked. “War. They love it, the more, the better. Forever war, perpetual war.”
McConnell, the Senate majority leader, has led the Senate effort to warn President Donald Trump against a too-hasty retreat from Syria and Afghanistan. McConnell rarely breaks with Trump on any policy.
Paul, though, stood squarely with Trump.
On Twitter and from the Senate floor, Paul made clear his distaste for McConnell’s amendment that warns that “the precipitous withdrawal of United States’ forces from either country could put at risk hard-won gains and United States national security.”
Paul, a non-interventionist, instead hailed Trump for being “bold enough and strong enough” to end the war in Afghanistan that began after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The senator argued there was no longer a military mission for U.S. troops to remain. He called McConnell’s amendment an “insult” to Trump.
“How do you leave precipitously after 17 years?” Paul asked. “We are no longer fighting anyone who attacked us on 9/11.”
Paul called the amendment — which McConnell authored and is widely viewed as a rebuke to Trump’s plans to withdraw troops from the two countries — a product of a “war caucus” that Paul said includes Republicans and Democrats.
McConnell has been careful not to criticize Trump, instead focusing on some Democratic opposition. But the amendment cleared the Senate 90 minutes after Paul spoke with a 70-26 vote and support from senators from both parties.
McConnell labeled the provision as an “opportunity for senators to go on the record about what the United States should be doing in Syria and Afghanistan.”
He’d made his views clear: “I believe the threats remain. ISIS and al-Qaida have yet to be defeated. And American national security interests require continued commitment to our missions there.”
Trump came under sharp criticism from his own party after claiming in a tweet in December that the U.S. had defeated ISIS in Syria and that he was ordering a “full” and “rapid” withdrawal of U.S. troops.
Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, defended the amendment and criticized the media for casting it as a rebuke to Trump.
“This is the process working the way it was intended to, for the (president) to raise these issues and then discussions take place,” Risch said.