The United States Senate has rejected a motion to consider a resolution mandating the withdrawal of US troops from Syria by a decisive vote of 13-84. The motion, proposed by Kentucky Republican Rand Paul, sought to address concerns about the safety and mission clarity of American troops in the region.
Paul argued that the 900 or so US troops in Syria lacked a viable mission and were vulnerable to attack. He stressed that they risked becoming a “tripwire for a wider war”.
The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, a coalition of Iran-backed armed Shia groups, has asserted responsibility for over 75 attacks against US bases in Iraq and Syria since 7 October. The attacks came against a backdrop of the ongoing war in Gaza between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas.
The US has pledged support for Israel in its ongoing aggression against Gaza. Meanwhile, in support of Hamas, the military alliance known as the Axis of Resistance, which includes Iran, the Syrian government, Lebanese Hezbollah and Iraqi Shiite militias, has openly warned Israel of a strong response if it launches a ground offensive in Gaza.
This has fuelled Senator Paul’s push for withdrawal, citing the ongoing threat posed by these militias.
However, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, also from Kentucky, disagreed with the motion’s supporters, stating that its passage would be a “gift to Iran and its terrorist network”. McConnell argued that withdrawing American forces from the Middle East would play into Iran’s hands, jeopardising regional stability and the credibility of the United States.
In 2014, the United States sent troops to Syria as part of its campaign against the Islamic State. Following the liberation of the last ISIS stronghold in Syria by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) with the support of international partners in 2019, US forces and SDF fighters have continued to conduct joint operations against ISIS cells in North and East Syria to ensure a lasting defeat of the fundamentalist group.