A resolution asking for the complete withdrawal of US troops from Syria within six months was defeated on Wednesday, March 8, in the US House of Representative despite drawing bipartisan support.
The resolution was proposed by Republican representative Matt Gaetz from Florida, who claimed that the presence of US troops in Syria has no justification and no clear objective. The resolution received 103 votes in favor and 321 votes against. Despite the expressed support of the Progressive Caucus, the resolution was only supported by 56 Democrats and 47 Republicans in the House, which has a total strength of 435.
After the vote, Gaetz claimed that his resolution was the beginning of his “fight to end forever wars and bring our troops home.” He was reported claiming: “Syria is my lead-off hitter. We’re going to take a trip around the globe. We may go to Yemen, we may have stops in Niger, we may have stops in Sudan, maybe ultimately, we’ll end in Ukraine.” Gaetz is an extreme right-wing Republican and a supporter of Donald Trump. Sections of the US right wing are in favor of winding up military operations and military aid in some countries abroad so that the resources that are freed up can be used to focus on China or be deployed against migrants in the border.
First deployed in the country in 2014, most of the US troops in Syria have been withdrawn since the declaration of victory over the Islamic State (ISIS) in 2019. There are still around 900 US troops in the country who work in collaboration with Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in the country’s north and eastern areas.
The primary justification for the presence of the US forces in Syria post 2019 has been the alleged threat of the reemergence of ISIS. Former President Donald Trump reversed his decision to withdraw all troops from Syria within days in 2019, claiming that their presence in the country was necessary to prevent ISIS from exploiting its oil resources.
The Syrian government, however, has termed the presence of US forces in the country illegal and accused the US forces operating from the illegal base in Al-Tanf in Homs province of aiding the anti-government forces to prolong the war in the country. It has also said that, in alliance with the SDF, the US forces have been looting billions of dollars of its oil resources.
The Syrian government had strongly objected to General Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, visiting the country earlier this month without permission or notice, calling it an illegal visit. It rejected the claims made by the US that the visit was to assess the preparedness of its forces to deal with the possible resurgence of ISIS, claiming that “the international community knows very well that Daesh (the Arabic name for ISIS) is an illegitimate offspring of US intelligence.”