Obama set to request sweeping war powers bill to fight ISIS

Administration's proposal is likely to meet serious skepticism. Here's why

Published February 11, 2015 2:30PM (EST)

  (Reuters/Saul Loeb)
(Reuters/Saul Loeb)

The New York Times reports that as soon as today, the Obama administration plans to seek formal authorization for its airstrikes against the Islamic State militant group, five months after the U.S.-led bombing campaign began. The war powers resolution envisioned by the administration would expire in 2017 and prohibit the use of "enduring ground forces," but is otherwise sweeping in its scope, setting no geographical limit on where the U.S. may conduct airstrikes and authorizing strikes against "associated forces" beyond the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

While the administration's proposal would repeal the 2002 resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq, it would leave in place the 2001 authorization to use military force, which lawmakers passed in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks. The administration has contended that regardless of whether lawmakers approve an ISIS war resolution, the 2001 authorization provides sufficient cover for U.S. operations against the group.

By disallowing "enduring ground forces," the Times reports, the administration hopes to split the difference between lawmakers who want to see an outright ban on ground forces and those who express concerns about excessive constraints on the commander in chief.

Controversially, the administration includes no language restricting the fight to Iraq and Syria, where ISIS has gained footholds. As the Times notes, this could pave the way for future U.S. operations in countries like Lebanon and Jordan, should ISIS encroach on those nations.

Not surprisingly, some lawmakers are already voicing significant skepticism:

Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut and a member of the Armed Services Committee, said as he left the meeting [between congressional Democrats and Obama chief of staff Denis McDonough] that he had “grave reservations” and that he had “yet to be convinced.”

Senator Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, echoed the concerns of many lawmakers who are worried that giving the president approval would only reward a decade of mismanagement in the Middle East. “If money or military might would change that part of the world, we’d be done a long time ago,” he said. “In West Virginia, we understand the definition of insanity.”

Meanwhile, others are eager to see a war resolution passed. “I have disagreements with the president’s conduct of foreign policy and what he’s done,” Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) said. “But in this instance, we need an Authorization for the Use of Military Force. Our enemies and our allies need to know that we speak with one voice.”

Details of the administration's proposal come as reports from the region indicate that the bombing campaign has failed to stop the flow of foreign fighters to the war zone. The Associated Press reported Monday that 20,000 foreign fighters have traveled to Iraq and Syria, including 3,400 from Western nations. As many as 150 Americans have tried -- some with success -- to enlist, the AP found.

By Luke Brinker

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Barack Obama Foreign Policy Iraq Isis Islamic State National Security Syria Terrorism War