Independent Journal Review/Rebecca Rainey
Members of the Senate Foreign Relations committee met Tuesday morning to discuss repealing the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Force (AUMF) and replacing it with one that covers U.S. military action against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
“This is one of the most important responsibilities we’ve had,” said the committee's top Democrat, Ben Cardin (D-Md.), who argued that the 16-year-old authorization “is being used well beyond what Congress intended.”
The bipartisan AUMF introduced by Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) in late May specifically gives congressional consent for the use of military force against ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and the Taliban, and provides Congress with an extended oversight role on determining targets “associated” with terrorist groups.
“Our allies need to know where we are. Our adversaries need to know where we are ... Our troops in the field need to know we speak with one voice,” Flake told the committee. “We need to be together on matters of foreign policy of this importance.”
The legislation also calls for the president to report to Congress with a military strategy against terrorist groups, something the committee also specifically requested from the administration, which Cardin said they have not received.
The U.S. has been using the same authorization for various military actions in the Middle East for the past 16 years, since an AUMF was last passed after 9/11.
But U.S. involvement in the Middle East is heating up even more. Some lawmakers think it's time to redefine the authorization to make it more current.
Tuesday morning, U.S. fighter jets shot down an Iranian armed drone over southeast Syria and just two days earlier, U.S. forces shot down a Syrian warplane after it dropped explosives near American-allied Syrian Democratic forces on the ground in Syria.
The conflict has aggravated the U.S. relationship with Russia, which condemned the move and threatened to retaliate against American and their allies' military planes flown west of the Euphrates river.
And the raised tensions come in the wake of President Donald Trump ordering an attack using 59 Tomahawk missiles against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in retaliation against a deadly chemical weapons attack that killed more than 70 civilians in early April, the first U.S. military action against the Syrian government since the civil war began.
Some members of Congress are arguing a new AUMF is necessary, and that the new authorization should provide stronger limitations.
“I won't vote for something that doesn't limit the president's power,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). “We have been illegally at war for a long time now.”
Paul expressed his support for the new authorization, but stressed that the legislation should be much more specific in identifying the enemy and defining the president's ability to deploy troops.
“We're not going to defeat terrorism by having a war in 60-some odd countries,” Sen. Paul said.