Friday April 28, 2023
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., left, at a House Judiciary Committee meeting at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House lawmakers on Thursday voted against a resolution that would have forced President Biden to withdraw all U.S. troops from the African nation of Somalia.
U.S. forces have deployed to Somalia since 2014 for counterterrorism operations, primarily to fight against American-designated terrorist group al-Shabab.
Gaetz argued that the several hundred troops in Somalia are not vital to protecting Americans and the U.S. couldn’t “beat an ideology” out of foreign groups.
“I fear China. I fear some crazy Russian general with nuclear codes far more than I fear Somali warlords,” the Republican lawmaker said. “I guess it’s easy to stand up and say we should be the police force everywhere because anywhere some bad person could harbor the desire to kill us.”
Gaetz forced the House to vote on a resolution last month that would have removed U.S. troops from Syria, but that vote also failed.
Opponents of the Somalia resolution said the U.S. presence in countries like Somalia protects global security.
Rep. Rich McCormick (R-Ga.) said the military has stopped attacks on Americans and prevented international destabilization, calling it a “Herculean” effort.
“Because we have forces all around the world, we have been a safer place,” McCormick said. “We have saved American lives. … I want to make sure that we’re clear that this is not about seeking war.”
U.S. intervention in Somalia dates to 1992, when President George H.W. Bush sent Marines into the country for emergency assistance amid a civil war.
A year later, U.S. special forces were ambushed by Somali militias in a deadly incident that formed the basis of the novel and eventual film adaptation “Black Hawk Down.”
Since al-Shabab rose to power in 2006, threatening security in the region, the U.S. has sought to defeat the militant group through air strikes, training local forces and conducting special forces operations.
The first known ongoing deployment of U.S. forces in the country was in 2014, primarily in a training and advisory role in the capital of Mogadishu.
Last year, President Biden reversed an order from the Trump administration to withdraw U.S. troops from Somalia and has since retained a small presence in the country, citing the risk of al-Shabab.
Opponents of the Gaetz resolution have cited concerns about creating a vacuum in which Russia and China could quickly step in to fill.
“We have an opportunity to engage and listen to our allies,” said Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) on the House floor, adding it was important to work “collectively to try to make sure that the Chinese and the Russians of the world are not invested.”
The American military presence abroad is a subject of intense debate in Congress this year, with 103 lawmakers, including Republicans and Democrats, voting for the resolution to withdraw troops from Syria last month.
The Senate recently passed legislation to repeal two authorizations for the use of military force against Iraq, with a bipartisan coalition of senators arguing Congress needs to reassert its legislative war powers and protect against potential future abuses of military action.
Similar legislation to repeal the Iraq war authorizations, from 2002 and 1991, has been introduced in the House and is expected to be taken up on the floor sometime this year.