SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Following the revelation this week that 400 more U.S. ground troops were deployed to Syria, a Bay Area congresswoman introduced a bill Friday to block further deployments without Congressional debate or authorization.
Rep. Barbara Lee’s bill would prohibit the expansion of U.S. combat troops in Syria. In a statement released Friday, Lee (D-Oakland) wrote, “For more than fifteen years, the U.S. has been engaged in an ever-expanding war in the Middle East. President Trump’s deployment of combat troops in Syria is the latest front in this endless war.”
Lee said the president should not make such an important decision unilaterally. The U.S. military has not disclosed how many troops are currently in Syria. Only 503 are authorized, but temporary deployments do not count against the cap.
Lee’s bill has 15 Democratic co-sponsors as well as one Republican co-sponsor, Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC).
Air Force Col. John L. Dorrian, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve – the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria – told The New York Times this week that “…approximately an additional 400 enabling forces deployed for a temporary period to enable our Syrian partnered forces to defeat ISIS in Raqqa.”
U.S. Gen. Joseph Votel, head of U.S. Central Command, confirmed the likelihood of an increased U.S. military presence in Syria at a hearing with the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday.
Lee is famous for being the only member of Congress to vote against Authorization for the Use of Military Force, following the September 11, 2011 attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. She said Friday that authorization “is still being used to justify military actions around the globe, including this new deployment into Syria.”
She urged her fellow members of Congress to join her “in preventing this president from sending our troops into yet another unchecked, ill-advised war without a full and robust debate from Congress.”
Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, also cast doubt about U.S. intentions in Syria on Thursday. “We’ve been either unable or unwilling to ask or answer basic questions about American policy in the region. We’ve been reluctant to act and when compelled to do so, we have pursued only the most limited and incremental actions,” McCain said. “We’re fighting ISIS in Syria but ignoring the Syrian civil war that was its genesis and fuels it to this day.”
McCain highlighted the fact that the Trump administration has not been clear on its goals for the deployment of ground troops in Syria, other than to defeat ISIS.
“In fact, the sad reality is America’s strategic position in the Middle East is weaker today than it was eight years ago. And the positions of Vladimir Putin’s Russia and [the] Iranian regime and its terrorist proxies have improved. This is not a military failure. Instead, it is a failure of strategy, a failure of policy and most of all a failure of leadership,” McCain said.
“We have to start answering some basic and difficult strategic questions … What is America’s strategy concerning a political transition in Syria? The future of Assad and his regime?” asked McCain.
By Hannah Albarazi – Follow her on Twitter: @hannahalbarazi.