WASHINGTON — The Senate, in a bipartisan rebuke to President Trump’s foreign policy, voted overwhelmingly to advance legislation drafted by the majority leader to express strong opposition to the president’s withdrawal of United States military forces from Syria and Afghanistan.
The 68-to-23 vote to cut off debate ensures that the amendment, written by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and backed by virtually every Senate Republican, will be added to a broader bipartisan Middle East policy bill expected to easily pass the Senate next week.
The vote was the second time in two months that a Republican-led Senate had rebuked Mr. Trump on foreign policy. In December, 56 senators voted to end American military assistance for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen in what was the strongest show of bipartisan defiance against Mr. Trump’s defense of the kingdom over the killing of a dissident journalist, Jamal Khashoggi.
This time, the vote was even more lopsided. Mr. Trump’s declaration of victory over the Islamic State provoked a swift backlash on Capitol Hill in December when he ordered that the United States pull 2,000 troops from Syria and 7,000 from Afghanistan.
Mr. McConnell, usually a reliable ally of the president’s, drafted an amendment warning that “the precipitous withdrawal of United States forces from either country could put at risk hard-won gains and United States national security.”
Without directly invoking the president’s name, Mr. McConnell countered Mr. Trump’s isolationist policies, arguing that “it is incumbent upon the United States to lead, to continue to maintain a global coalition against terror and to stand by our local partners.”
“I believe the threats remain,” he said in a speech on Thursday. “ISIS and Al Qaeda have yet to be defeated, and American national security interests require continued commitment to our mission there.”
Ilham Ahmed, who represents the political arm of the Syrian Democratic Forces, which has been fighting the Islamic State with American military support, said in an interview that Islamic State militants were not yet defeated and that sleeper cells still lurked in northeastern Syria. “An American withdrawal would definitely affect the war,” she said during a visit to Washington to meet with lawmakers and administration officials to urge the United States to reverse or at least delay the pullout.
Ms. Ahmed was not scheduled to meet with Mr. Trump, but had an impromptu exchange with him on Monday night while she was dining separately at Mr. Trump’s hotel in Washington. Introduced to her, the president shook her hand and said, “I love the Kurds,” said an adviser to Ms. Ahmed, confirming an account reported by The Washington Post. Mr. Trump, who was attending a fund-raiser at the hotel, sought to ease her fears, assuring her that the Kurds were “not going to be killed.”