Eric Swalwell
Swalwell: Looks like we are at war with Syria
00:51 - Source: CNN

Story highlights

A US fighter jet shot down a pro-regime drone Monday

In Syria, the United States is backing an anti-ISIS rebel alliance, the Syrian Democratic Forces

Washington CNN  — 

A Democratic congressman said Tuesday that recent military actions make it look like the United States is at war with Syria.

Rep. Eric Swalwell called on Congress to vote on military authorization for the US’ clashes with forces supporting Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad on CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.”

“It looks like we are at war in Syria,” Swalwell said. “But this would be a war that would be without the authorization of Congress, and it’s time that Congress votes on: What is the timeline? What is the troop commitment? And what is the terrain that is covered?”

A US fighter jet shot down an Iranian made pro-regime drone Monday, and the US Navy shot down a Syrian warplane on Sunday.

President Donald Trump and former President Barack Obama’s administrations have used a 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force against al Qaeda to legally justify a range of anti-terror military actions.

A lot of forces with competing aims are at close quarters in eastern Syria. The United States is aggressively backing a Syrian rebel alliance – the Syrian Democratic Forces – as they fight their way into Raqqa, ISIS’ administrative capital for the past three years.

The Syrian army and its allies (largely Iranian, Iraqi and Lebanese Shia militia), however, are also closing in on Raqqa. Last week the Syrian military reached areas controlled by the SDF. It was almost inevitable that at some point these opposing alliances would butt heads. So when the Syrian air force bombed SDF positions Sunday, the US came to the aid of its partners on the ground – and the Syrians have one fewer fighter jet.

The Pentagon said the action was “in accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defense of coalition partnered forces,” but that was not the view in Moscow.

Lawmakers like Swalwell say Congress should vote on a new AUMF – and have argued that the 2001 authorization does not allow for strikes against pro-regime forces not aligned with terror groups.

Virginia Democrat Sen. Tim Kaine and Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake are attempting to get Congress to vote on an AUMF against ISIS, al Queda and the Taliban, CNN reported in May.

The Senate foreign relations committee held a 90-minute hearing Tuesday to consider issues around authorizations for the use of military force.

CNN’s Zachary Cohen contributed to this report.