Gaetz resolution to withdraw US troops from Syria fails in House vote

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A resolution to force the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria within six months failed to pass  the House on Wednesday.

The resolution, sponsored by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and emphatically backed by several more conservative lawmakers, including Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.), was rejected on a 103-321 vote.

The resolution was supported by 56 Democrats and 47 Republicans, while 150 Democrats and 171 Republicans voted against the resolution.

Roughly 900 U.S. troops remain in Syria, where they carry out operations to counter ISIS. Although the U.S.-designated terrorist group has lost much of its territory, it still has a presence in Syria and maintains sleeper cells.

On the House floor, Gaetz said American troops in Syria were trapped in a “hellscape” of war and meddling from various foreign nations and the American counter-terrorism operations in the country have no end in sight.

The Florida lawmaker also argued the ISIS forces in Syria do not represent a serious threat to the U.S., and so the soldiers should be withdrawn.

‘So often we come to the floor and we debate frivolities. This is one of the most important things we can be talking about,” Gaetz said. “How we use the credibility of our fellow Americans … how we spill the blood of our bravest patriots. We have stained the deserts in the Middle East with enough American blood. It is time to bring our servicemembers home.”

Opponents of the legislation said it was vital to review the U.S. presence in Syria but that withdrawing from the country would threaten Americans by allowing foreign terrorist groups like ISIS to strengthen. Some House members noted the chaotic withdrawal of Afghanistan in 2021, which led to the swift takeover of the Taliban.

Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Relations Committee, said he does not support an “indefinite” presence in Syria, but the resolution was “premature” and would leave partner forces “out to dry.”

That argument was backed by Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), who said a withdrawal would lead to a “much larger, more complex problem at a higher cost and threat to Americans worldwide.”

“We don’t need to repeat 9/11,” Wilson said. “Peace is best maintained through strength.”

Gaetz introduced the resolution in February after four U.S. troops and one working dog were injured during a raid in Syria. The bill was later amended from requiring a withdrawal after enactment from 15 days to 180 days.

Gaetz was able to force a vote on the resolution by invoking the War Powers Act, which makes it privileged and requires swifter congressional action.

The U.S. has carried out counter-terrorism operations in Syria with ground forces since 2015, about four years after an ongoing civil war first erupted in the country.

Former President Trump, a forceful critic of U.S. foreign entanglements, announced he would withdraw troops from Syria in 2019, the year the U.S. declared the defeat of ISIS, but he eventually committed to keeping some troops in the nation.

The Biden administration has maintained the U.S. presence in Syria. Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, traveled to Syria over the weekend, where he said it was crucial to protect American security and ensure the “enduring defeat of ISIS.”

Criticism of U.S. operations in Syria has attracted politicians on both the left and the right. The Congressional Progressive Caucus urged members to vote for the resolution introduced by Gaetz, according to The Intercept.

Separately on Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee passed bipartisan legislation to repeal the 1991 Gulf War authorization and the 2002 Iraq war authorizations, both of which remain on the books even with the conflicts decades in the past.

The U.S. also has an active Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) for military action against those responsible for the 9/11 attacks, which has been used for counter-terrorism operations.

This story was updated at 6:36 p.m.

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