US Congress rejects Syria troop pullout

Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz castigated fellow lawmakers for voting to prolong America’s “forever wars”.

US lawmakers have voted down a bill seeking to withdraw all American troops from Syria, opting to continue the years-long military occupation despite repeated objections from the government in Damascus, which has rejected the armed presence as illegal.

While 56 Democrats joined 47 Republicans to back the GOP-sponsored bill, the Syria War Powers Resolution failed to pass in a 103-321 vote on Wednesday, facing stiff bipartisan opposition.

Introduced by Florida Republican Matt Gaetz last month, the legislation would have directed President Joe Biden to remove the 900 US troops still deployed to the Middle Eastern nation within a period of six months. Arguing that Congress never authorized military action in Syria to begin with, Gaetz slammed lawmakers on both sides of the aisle following the ill-fated vote.

“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,” he said on the House floor. “Time and again, the work we do does not reduce chaos. Oftentimes, it causes chaos – the very chaos that then subsequently leads to terrorism. While today’s vote may have failed, my fight to end forever wars and bring our troops home has only just begun.”

Opponents of the War Powers Resolution voiced fears that a US pullout could mean the revival of terrorist groups in the region. Democrat Gregory Meeks argued that while he does not support an “indefinite” deployment, a withdrawal would be “premature.” He did not offer an alternative timeframe for when US forces should leave the country, having occupied Syrian territory intermittently for nearly a decade despite years of vocal objections from the government in Damascus.

Gaetz said several prior Inspector General reports concluded a resurgence of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) in Syria was “unlikely,” instead claiming the American presence has served as a “recruiting tool” for the infamous terrorist cell.

“We have to also acknowledge Syria and Iraq are the two countries on the planet Earth where we have done the most to fund ISIS. We give weapons to these so-called moderate rebels… and it turns out they’re not that moderate,” he continued, referring to President Barack Obama’s policy to arm rebel groups seeking to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad, many of which kept close ties with Al-Qaeda and other jihadist factions.

Though Congress never approved troop deployments in Syria, three successive presidents have cited the military authorization passed after the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001 to support the decision. The same measure has been invoked as legal justification for more than 40 US military operations in at least 19 countries around the world since 2001, according to the Congressional Research Service.

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