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24 Feb, 2023 02:56

US lawmaker demands Syria troop withdrawal

American forces continue to occupy the country’s oil-rich northeast, where they have been accused of stealing resources
US lawmaker demands Syria troop withdrawal

Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz has introduced a War Powers Resolution seeking to end US military action in Syria, arguing Congress had never authorized the nearly decade-long occupation. 

Unveiled on Wednesday, the legislation would direct President Joe Biden to remove all US forces from Syria no later than 15 days after the bill is adopted. Gaetz, the resolution’s sponsor, cited a recent raid in Syria which left several servicemen wounded, questioning why American troops are still in the country. 

“Congress has never authorized the use of military force in Syria. The United States is currently not in a war with or against Syria, so why are we conducting dangerous military operations there?” he said in a press release. “President Biden must remove all US Armed Forces from Syria. America First means actually putting the people of our country first – not the interests of the military industrial complex.”

Gaetz went on to state that the 80-year-old Biden “does not have a cognitive grasp on the Syrian conflict,” pointing to an August 2021 interview with ABC News in which the president appeared to suggest there were no US troops in Syria. Washington has kept around 900 soldiers there for several years, including at the time of the interview. 

Because War Powers Resolutions are privileged legislation, Congress will be forced to vote on the new measure within 18 days of its introduction. 

The US military has been active in Syria since as early as 2014, flying countless airstrikes against select militant groups and, at times, the Syrian government. Intermittent ground deployments began the same year.

Under President Barack Obama, Washington doled out hundreds of millions of dollars in weapons to an array of jihadist rebel factions seeking to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad, though the effort later fizzled following Russian and Iranian military intervention at the request of Damascus. 

While American involvement in Syria slowed after Obama left office, in 2019, then-President Donald Trump said some US troops would remain in the country “for the oil,” openly suggesting Washington would simply “keep” the energy resources. Since then, Syrian officials have accused the Pentagon of making off with large amounts of oil taken from provinces in the northeast, where US forces have long embedded with Kurdish militia groups. 

A number of US troops also continue to occupy a base near Al-Tanf in southern Syria, stationed alongside militia fighters who previously aimed to oust the government in Damascus.