Obama Asks Congress to Authorize Force Against ISIS

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WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 19:  U.S. President Barack Obama listens to a question during a briefing about Iraq in the Brady Briefing room of the White House on June 19, 2014 in Washington, DC. Obama spoke about the deteriorating situation as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants move toward Baghdad after taking control over northern Iraqi cities.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

President Obama is formally asking Congress to authorize force to defeat ISIS, sending a letter and a draft resolution to lawmakers Wednesday. The president’s plan outlines a three-year commitment, with the possibility of limited ground operations. The resolution also doesn’t restrict U.S. forces to any particular national borders, empowering the military to fight ISIS where its operations move.

If Congress approves a joint resolution, it will be the first authorization of force since Bush’s request for the 2002 Iraq invasion. Obama has been waging air strikes against ISIS under that 2002 agreement, along with the post-9/11 authorization for operations in Afghanistan. This new resolution specifically targets ISIS and essentially repeals the 2002 resolution.

Here is President Obama’s full letter to Congress. 

TO THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES:

The so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) poses a threat to the people and stability of Iraq, Syria, and the broader Middle East, and to U.S. national security.  It threatens American personnel and facilities located in the region and is responsible for the deaths of U.S. citizens James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Abdul-Rahman Peter Kassig, and Kayla Mueller.  If left unchecked, ISIL will pose a threat beyond the Middle East, including to the United States homeland.

I have directed a comprehensive and sustained strategy to degrade and defeat ISIL.  As part of this strategy, U.S. military forces are conducting a systematic campaign of airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq and Syria.  Although existing statutes provide me with the authority I need to take these actions, I have repeatedly expressed my commitment to working with the Congress to pass a bipartisan authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) against ISIL.  Consistent with this commitment, I am submitting a draft AUMF that would authorize the continued use of military force to degrade and defeat ISIL.

My Administration’s draft AUMF would not authorize long‑term, large-scale ground combat operations like those our Nation conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Local forces, rather than U.S. military forces, should be deployed to conduct such operations.  The authorization I propose would provide the flexibility to conduct ground combat operations in other, more limited circumstances, such as rescue operations involving U.S. or coalition personnel or the use of special operations forces to take military action against ISIL leadership.  It would also authorize the use of U.S. forces in situations where ground combat operations are not expected or intended, such as intelligence collection and sharing, missions to enable kinetic strikes, or the provision of operational planning and other forms of advice and assistance to partner forces.

Although my proposed AUMF does not address the 2001 AUMF, I remain committed to working with the Congress and the American people to refine, and ultimately repeal, the 2001 AUMF.  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 granted by the 2001 AUMF.

I can think of no better way for the Congress to join me in supporting our Nation’s security than by enacting this legislation, which would show the world we are united in our resolve to counter the threat posed by ISIL.

BARACK OBAMA