Obama asks Congress for 'flexibility' in fight against Islamic State
President Obama asked Congress on Wednesday to formally authorize military operations against Islamic State militants and sought the ability to use ground troops in limited situations, though he said that long-term deployment of U.S. ground forces isn’t necessary to defeat the terrorist organization.
The draft resolution seeking authorization for use of force says the extremist group poses a "grave threat" to Iraq, Syria and stability in the region as well as U.S. national security interests.
“Its barbaric murders of so many people, including American hostages, are a desperate and revolting attempt to strike fear in the hearts of people it can never possibly win over by its ideas or its ideology because it offers nothing but misery and death and destruction,” Obama said Wednesday afternoon.
The U.S. has been conducting military operations against Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, for months, primarily airstrikes. The administration has asserted that Obama already has legal authority for those operations under authorizations passed by Congress in 2001 and 2002. But Obama has said he would prefer to have explicit congressional backing.
The resolution, written in consultation with key lawmakers, would authorize the use of the military against Islamic State, related groups and "any closely related successor entities" for three years.
The language places few limits on the type of operations Obama or a future president could wage -- a permissiveness that is likely to be a point of contention, particularly among Obama's fellow Democrats. Several leading Democratic lawmakers have said they want to see tighter restrictions.
The measure bars the use of U. S. troops for "enduring offensive ground operations," apparently leaving room for short-term, targeted offensive missions as well as the use of ground troops for longer-term "defensive" purposes.
It “gives us the flexibility we need for unforeseen circumstances,” Obama said.
Yet, he added, “it is not the authorization of another ground war like Afghanistan or Iraq. The 2,600 American troops in Iraq today largely serve on bases. And yes, they face the risks that come with service in any dangerous environment, but they do not have a combat mission.”
The new proposed resolution would repeal the 2002 authorization that sanctioned the invasion of Iraq, but leaves in place the broader authorization for the use of force against Al Qaeda, which Congress passed in 2001 after the Sept. 11 attacks.
In a letter sending the document to Congress, Obama repeated his statement that he would like Congress to pass a new resolution updating and replacing that authorization as well, but said lawmakers should deal with the current matter first.
"Enacting an AUMF that is specific to the threat posed by ISIL could serve as a model for how we can work together to tailor the authorities" for a new resolution against Al Qaeda and its successors, he wrote.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) called the proposal a "serious and thoughtful draft," but did not comment on its specifics.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, who was among the House Democrats who worked most closely with the White House on the draft, called the ground troops language "overly broad" and questioned the decision to leave in place the "blank check authority" of the 2001 authorization.
"It makes little sense to place reasonable boundaries on the executive's war powers against ISIL while leaving them unchecked elsewhere," he said in a statement.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, agreed, saying that leaving the 2001 resolution untouched "would fail to meet the goal set by the president last summer when he argued that that the old authorization should be refined and ultimately repealed."
A resolution Schiff wrote as well as one passed by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last December when Democrats still had a majority in the Senate, would have ended the 2001 authorization in three years.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said on the Senate floor Wednesday that the chamber "will review the president's request thoughtfully." Republican senators plan to meet Wednesday evening on the issue.
Source: LA Times
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