Old Laws, New Enemy -- The AUMF Debate and The War on Terrorism (Huffington Post)

U.S. Congress is witnessing a legal matrix unfolding as it considers whether to create a new law to continue targeting the Islamic State group. The debate surrounding the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) is more than just language reorganization, as the consequences extend to implications on the ground, the future of war and the means to strike. Some may think: why does the U.S. Congress need this law? Well, it shows seriousness in a conflict, classifies the enemy, justifies spending and empowers political and legal correctness for global multilateral mobilization.

The problem is since the inception of Baghdadi's "Caliphate," Congress has passed two laws within the "War on Terrorism;" however, both address different asymmetric battlefields. The 2001 AUMF was passed 14 years ago to avert al-Qaeda, Taliban and associated forces from striking the U.S., not to fight Islamic State that did not exist on 11 September 2001 or take part in it. The 2002 AUMF created for Iraq, targeted the national security threat in in the country and worked to dismantle Saddam Hussein's military objectives on the basis that he possessed unfounded WMD -- not Baghdadi's "Caliphate." Hence, both AUMF laws are not suitable to make the fight against the Caliphate lawful. It's simple, Baghdadi's Caliphate is not al Qaeda, and vice versa. Moreover, Baghdadi has nothing to do with the activities of 9/11, and hence both laws cannot be applied properly.

In December 2015, Congressman Representative Adam Schiff proposed a draft Islamic State AUMF along with al-Qaeda and Afghan Taliban as enemies. Congress hasn't voted on this one yet, but if it does, it'll mean the 9/11 war (AUMF 2001) and Iraq war (AUMF 2002) authorization will be repealed. Islamic state will be the main enemy, with al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban still parties to the main conflict on terrorism. This would make the AUMF Islamic State the new law for the global war on terrorism -- potentially justifying lethal force anywhere in the word. Schiff's AUMF draft assumes that the war and military objectives of the Islamic State group, Al Qaeda and the Taliban are one and the same. This potential draft has the ability to declassify fights with the groups and associated forces, and place them under one global war without borders. This causes major tensions with international law, and the need to classify war.


By virtue of international law, use of force in Iraq with local consent could be justified for the interim, particularly to protect U.S. national security or personnel. But within the boundaries of Syria, President Bashar al-Assad's government has not openly consented to U.S. strikes. Moreover, the military objectives are different -- to kill and maim Baghdadi's leadership, not just to protect U.S. nationals or Syrian civilians, hundreds of thousands of whom have already died. If partner governments such as Iraq and Turkey request strikes from the U.S., the administration could plausibly argue that it is conducting limited military actions in Syria in collective self-defense to protect these countries (strategic partners) from Baghdadi's 'Caliphates' threat to regional peace and security. The administration could justify particular military actions in Syria that are necessary to save American hostages -- like the rescue attempt for James Foley, who was an American journalist captured by the Islamic State group, to prevent an imminent attack on U.S citizens, or to avert a mass slaughter of innocents. The U.S may also take necessary and proportionate actions to target particular senior Islamic State group leaders who have taken up arms alongside al Qaeda against the U.S.


Game changer: al-Qaeda groups pledge allegiance to IS


Baghdadi's Caliphate is a separate entity to al-Qaeda Core, but it is thought he has received a pledge of allegiance from groups in Afghanistan, Libya, Nigeria and other war zones. This is a significant game changer for the War on Terrorism. Internally within Afghanistan, the Taliban and al-Qaeda have already taken up arms against factions who have joined the IS world domination objective. Thus, there's a new enemy on the block, and not just for the U.S.


The U.S. is fighting two different parties who do not share the same objectives. They are on two different battlefields and competing between each other, along with two separate AUMF laws. Islamic state will not only be operating in Syria and Iraq, but may gain influence in other fronts as al-Qaeda factions pledge allegiance to Baghdadi.

There are some groups that the US will not specifically ink down as enemies, but classify them as Islamic State group affiliates or associated forces, such as the Free Syrian Army, Ahrar ash-Sham and the Khorasan Group -- whether the groups will be included in a new AUMF law will be a Congressional debate.


As the U.S. tries to pen down a draft AUMF law to take on the Islamic State group and those it classifies as its affiliates, it's clear that armed groups in Syria and Iraq are observing any alliances made with the U.S. This directly influences the concept of the pledge of allegiance (bay'ah) system, and how such allegiances between groups can either broaden the global War on Terrorism, or defuse it's asymmetric influence -- creating a new war beyond borders.

Source: Huffington Post