One of Washington's most powerful Republicans has accused Donald Trump of creating a "strategic nightmare" for the US in the Middle East by withdrawing troops from parts of Syria.

Mitch McConnell, the leader of the Senate, which will have the final say on Trump's impeachment, joined dissenting ranks of Republicans in publicly criticising the president at the end of one of the most bruising weeks for the Trump administration.

Writing in the Washington Post, a newspaper often criticised by Trump, McConnell said: "We saw the Islamic State flourish in Iraq after President Barack Obama's retreat. We will see these things anew in Syria and Afghanistan if we abandon our partners and retreat from these conflicts before they are won."

In an apparent jibe at Trump's description of "endless wars" in the region, he added: "America's wars will be 'endless' only if America refuses to win them."


A fragile ceasefire appeared to be holding along Turkey's border with Syria yesterday, but the deal that brought it about has opened a new front at home for Trump.

Trump heralded the five-day truce he secured as a "great day for civilisation".

But critics called it another betrayal of the Kurds, as it was conditional on the withdrawal of their forces.

Among the unexpected critics were McConnell and South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham, one of Trump's staunchest backers, but their Syrian clash turned into a slanging match.

Then there is Ukraine. Republican senators have largely kept their counsel over Trump's attempt to put pressure on the country's Government to investigate Joe Biden, the former vice-president whom he could face at the 2020 election — behaviour that triggered the impeachment inquiry.

But when caught on camera and asked if they are fine with a president seeking foreign help with re-election, few senators are saying yes.

The Democrat-held House of Representatives will almost certainly vote to impeach Trump, McConnell has warned Republican senators.

Then it would be over to the Senate to convict or not.


Surveys suggest a narrow majority of Americans now favour impeachment and removal from office, but Republican voters remain fiercely against; just 6 per cent backed the move in a poll this month.

Rooney, Perry latest to bow out

Florida Representative Francis Rooney, one of the few Republicans openly weighing whether to impeach US President Donald Trump, said yesterday he will not run for re-election, adding his name to an extensive list of GOP retirements.

Rooney said on Saturday he was "still thinking about" whether to vote to impeach Trump, saying acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney had acknowledged a quid pro quo was at work when Trump held up US aid to Ukraine in exchange for Ukraine's investigation of Democrats and the 2016 elections.

Meanwhile, Rick Perry has announced he is quitting as energy secretary by year's end.

The announcement came as the House impeachment investigation highlighted his work in Ukraine, where he promoted US natural gas.

Trump said Perry, one of his longest-serving Cabinet members, had planned for months to leave.

- additional reporting AP