World

Fighting ISIS: Barack Obama asks U.S. Congress for war powers

U.S. President Barack Obama has sent Congress his request for authorization to use military force in the campaign against ISIS, limiting operations against the militants to three years and barring use of U.S. troops in "enduring offensive ground combat."

Proposal would allow U.S. military force against ISIS with no geographic limits

Obama requests war powers

The National

6 years ago
3:11
The U.S president presses Congress for more powers to fight ISIS 3:11

U.S. President Barack Obama has sent Congress his request for authorization to use military force in the campaign against ISIS, limiting operations against the militants to three years and barring use of U.S. troops in "enduring offensive ground combat."

According to the text, Obama also wants to repeal the 2002 measure that authorized the Iraq war. But his proposal leaves in place a 2001 authorization, passed shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, for a campaign against al-Qaeda and its affiliates.

Obama is proposing an authorization for military force against ISIS that would:

  • Target ISIS and associated persons or forces, defined as those fighting with ISIS "in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners."
  • Provide no geographic limits on the battle.
  • Limit ground troops by banning "enduring offensive ground combat operations."
  • Expire after three years unless renewed by Congress.
  • Repeal a 2002 authorization for force in Iraq but maintain a 2001 authorization against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Obama says his goal is to refine and ultimately repeal that authorization as well.

Obama said he remained committed to working with Congress to "refine, and ultimately repeal" the 2001 AUMF. He said enacting a measure specific to the campaign against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria fighters could serve as a model for revamping the 2001 measure.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, right, listens as President Barack Obama speaks about ISIS. Obama says the mission against the militant group is a tough one and will be for some time to come, but he vowed that ISIS will ultimately lose. (Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press)

"I have directed a comprehensive and sustained strategy to degrade and defeat ISIL," Obama wrote in a letter accompanying the draft, using an acronym for the Islamist militant group.

"Local forces, rather than U.S. military forces, should be deployed to conduct such operations," he said.

Obama spoke about his request Wednesday afternoon, saying the resolution he's proposed provides flexibility for unforeseen circumstances. 

Though the resolution calls for a ban on "enduring offensive ground-combat operations" Obama cited an example in which special forces teams could be deployed on the ground.  

"For example, if we had actionable intelligence about a gathering of ISIL leaders, and our partners didn't have the capacity to get them, I would be prepared to order our special forces to take action, because I will not allow these terrorists to have a safe haven," Obama said. 

The world needs to hear that the United States speaks with one voice.- Secretary of State John Kerry

His proposal must be approved by both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, where it is expected to provoke strong debate between Democrats, who are generally wary of another Middle East war, and Republicans, many of whom have been pushing for stronger measures against the militant fighters.

Obama has defended his authority to lead an international coalition against Islamic State since Aug. 8 when U.S. fighter jets began attacking the jihadists in Iraq. But he has faced criticism for failing to seek the backing of Congress, where some accuse him of breaching his constitutional authority.

A Syrian Kurdish sniper, seen in this Jan. 30 photo, looks at the rubble in the Syrian city of Ain al-Arab, also known as Kobani. Kurdish fighters in Syria have been engaged in heated clashes with ISIS. (Associated Press)

Facing pressure to let lawmakers weigh in on an issue as important as the deployment of troops and chastened by elections that handed power in Congress to Republicans, he said in November he would request formal authorization for the use of military force (AUMF).

On Wednesday, Obama said his team had consulted with both Republicans and Democrats in crafting the resolution. He added that the moment demands a "thoughtful and dignified" debate and that he's confident the measure will earn bipartisan support. 

Secretary of State John Kerry, who spent nearly three decades in the U.S. Senate, said in a statement it was important that the administration work with Congress to secure its passage. The coalition fighting ISIS will be stronger if it is passed, he said.

"The world needs to hear that the United States speaks with one voice in the fight against ISIL," he said.

With files from CBC News and The Associated Press

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