The president’s power to wage war against ISIS has one clear limitation that is offered in the White House’s draft authorization for the use of military force, or AUMF:
“That does not authorize the use of the United States Armed Forces in enduring offensive ground combat operations.”
The chances of Congress authorizing the war against the Islamic State depend on the phrase. But Obama’s special envoy for the global coalition to counter ISIL, retired Gen. John Allen, was failed to define it on Wednesday.
“I think it would be difficult to put necessarily a level of precision against the word ‘enduring”.
Allen told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:
“Enduring might only be two weeks. But enduring might be two years.”
Army Secretary John McHugh, who served in Congress for 17 years, shared his views at earlier of the day:
“He felt the president meant to define enduring by including a three-year limit. So you can reasonably assume that under that authority, if that authority goes away in three years, the ‘enduring’ part of the mission would not be more than three years, but that’s just math, that’s not policy.”
On Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry, testifying before the same committee as Allen, stated a different definition:
“Now, ‘enduring’ in our mind means no long-term offensive combat of a large scale, which is what the president has defined,”
He further elaborated:
From, “Degrade and destroy” to “associated persons or forces”, the debate in Congress over the ISIS war has become a war over words. But when it comes to an AUMF, a statutory legal authority by which the president can use U.S. military force, words matter — the 2001 AUMF passed after 9/11 was initially only 60 words long, and continues to serve after more than 13 years as the primary legal foundation for every counter terrorism operation around the globe. Lawmakers will have to tackle these ambiguities as they attempt to come to a compromise on a new AUMF. Many Republicans strongly oppose the White House draft for being too restrictive, and many Democrats strongly oppose the proposal for being a “blank check,” as Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee put it.”
Menendez told Allen on Wednesday:
“Two weeks is one thing, two years is another. And this is the problem with the language as it exists. There is no clear defining element of the authorization given to the president in which hundreds but maybe hundreds of thousands of troops could be sent. They could be sent for long periods of time. We want to fight ISIL. But we can’t provide a blank check to this or any future president.”
Later on Wednesday, Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep., to whom AUMF proposal is too restrictive, echoed senators’ concerns.
Sen. Bob Menendez, D-NJ said:
“We want to fight ISIL. But we can’t provide a blank check to this or any future president.”
Thornberry’s committee takes up the issue on Thursday:
“We already put too many encumbrances on our troops in carrying out the missions they are assigned, in my view. Going into battle with a lawyer nearby to decide whether a particular action is ‘enduring’ or ‘offensive’ or a ‘ground combat operation’ seems problematic.”
It is believed that Obama administration officials have knowledge of the facts that the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) is deliberately giving an unclear picture to president, which is needed in order to become successful, “degrade and destroy” ISIS. But they don’t neglect the complications.
“The definition becomes irrelevant as with all legislative matters, congressional intent and meanings of words are defined initially by the Congress, and then, if required later, by the courts.”
Kerry called it:
“Straight forward” with a “sufficient level of fuzz.”
She further added:
“This is a pretty straightforward prohibition without curtailing exigencies and leaving that sufficient level of fuzz that the other side can’t decide, ‘Oh, we got a safe haven here. We can do whatever we want,’ or, ‘They’re not going to be able to, you know, whack us if we go do this or that or the other thing, so I think there have to be — there has to be a little bit of leeway there. But rest assured, there is, in our judgment, no way possible for this language to be misinterpreted and allow a kind of mission creep that takes us into a long-term war.”
Allen approved the mission of a three-year sunset on the AUMF is more crucial than what’s required of the politics.
At this point, Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee asked Allen asked:
“Does the length of time really particularly matter to you from the stand point of the allies and those that we’re defeating, or is it just more Congress getting behind the effort in a bipartisan way?”
I think it’s the latter.”