The House on Wednesday voted against a resolution sponsored by conservative Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) to pull troops from Syria – but he still managed to get support from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and other members of the opposite end of the political spectrum.
The resolution was backed by lawmakers who made unlikely bedfellows — with far-right Republican members Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) backing it along with far-left Democratic “squad” members AOC, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.).
The measure, however, failed Wednesday in 103-321 vote.
More Democrats, 56, than Republicans, 47, voted in favor of the resolution that would have directed President Biden to withdraw the roughly 900 US service members that remain in Syria carrying out counterterrorism operations.
“There is no role for the United States of America in Syria. We are not a Middle Eastern power. We have tried to build a democracy out of sand, blood, and Arab militias. Time and again, the work we do does not reduce chaos. Oftentimes, it causes chaos – the very chaos that then subsequently leads to terrorism,” Gaetz said in a statement after his resolution was voted down.
“While today’s vote may have failed, my fight to end forever wars and bring our troops home has only just begun,” the Florida Republican added.
The first American ground troops entered Syria in late 2015, and were tasked with recruiting, organizing and advising Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters, the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces, as well as rooting out members of the Islamic State terror group.
ISIS lost its last Syria stronghold in 2019, but the Pentagon says ISIS sleeper cells continue to carry out deadly attacks in Syria and Iraq.
Gaetz argued on the House floor Wednesday that ISIS in Syria isn’t a serious threat to the US and that there is no definition of what defeating ISIS in Syria means, and so the US should not be risking American lives in the country he called a “hellscape.”
“There are 1,500 different groups in Syria. So today’s friend is tomorrow’s ISIS. There’s no real clear delineation as to what the ‘enduring defeat of ISIS’ means. Like do we have to keep 900 Americans in Syria until the last heartbeat stops of the last person who holds some sympathy for ISIS? I would certainly hope not. It would mean we would have to be there forever,” Gaetz argued.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, defended the US-troop presence in Syria, noting that 466 ISIS militants were killed last year in operations with partners and 250 others were detained.
“If we withdraw our troops from Syria now, we could see a resurgence of ISIS or another legal successor in a short time,” McCaul argued. “Withdraw of this legal authorized U.S. troop deployment must be based on the total defeat of ISIS.”
Officially, US military operations in Syria are justified under the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force enacted after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
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