US House of Representatives rejects resolution to order troop withdrawal from Syria

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Saturday, March 11, 2023

Gaetz' official 2020 portrait.
Image: Ike Hayman.

On Wednesday, the US House of Representatives voted 321–103 against a resolution that would require the president to withdraw the roughly 900 US troops stationed in Syria.

Republican Representative Matt Gaetz introduced the resolution on February 21.

Gaetz stated: "I do not believe what stands between a caliphate and not a caliphate are the 900 Americans who have been sent to this hellscape with no definition of victory." The Associated Press noted a US operation in Syria four days earlier had wounded four US servicemembers, while killing a senior Islamic State leader.

On his congressional website, Gaetz argued: "Congress has never authorized kinetic participation of U.S. Armed Forces in Syria."

Representative Michael McCaul, chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a Republican, argued withdrawing forces could lead to a resurgence of the Islamic State. "Withdraw of this legal, authorized US troop deployment must be based on the total defeat of ISIS," he continued.

Representative Gregory Meeks, the Foreign Affairs Committee's top Democrat, said: "This measure forces a premature end to our mission at a critical time for our efforts." However, he expressed opposition to an indefinite presence of US forces in Syria.

The US has conducted military operations in Syria against the Islamic State since September 2014 as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, which multiple presidents have justified with the Authorization for Use of Military Force of 2001 (AUMF) and the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002.

The 2001 AUMF, the longest continuously-used AUMF in US history, was originally passed to authorize military action after the September 11 attacks, while the 2002 AUMF first authorized the Iraq War.

Congressional efforts to enact new authorization for anti-Islamic State operations began in late 2014, according to a Congressional Research Service report.

On June 17, 2021, the House of Representatives passed H.R.256, voting to repeal the 2002 AUMF. Meeks said then: "Repeal is crucial because the executive branch has a history of stretching the 2002 AUMF's legal authority." The bill did not pass the US Senate.

On Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 13–8 to approve a repeal of the 2002 AUMF and a 1991 AUMF, clearing it for a vote before the full Senate.

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