President Barack Obama sends letter to Congress requesting authorization for the use of military force

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WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama asked Congress on Wednesday to formally authorize the use of military force in the war against ISIS, the first time a U.S. President has asked for such authorization in 13 years.

Lawmakers on Wednesday morning received a draft Authorization for the Use of Military Force, a resolution that would formally authorize a six-month U.S. military effort against the militant group. Shortly after the request was sent to the Hill, the White House announced Obama would speak to the public on the issue Wednesday afternoon.

The joint resolution would limit the President’s authority to wage a military campaign against ISIS to three years and does not authorize “enduring offensive ground combat operations,” according to text of the resolution.

In a letter to Congress, Obama explained that the draft resolution would give him the authority to authorize “ground combat operations in limited circumstances,” including rescue operations and special forces operations to “take military action against ISIL leadership.”

The resolution would also sunset the 2002 AUMF that spawned the Iraq War. Obama withdrew American troops from Iraq in 2011, but the military authorization remains in effect.

The resolution drafted by the White House does not repeal the 2001 military force authorization that has served as the legal justification for the military campaign against ISIS and other U.S. military efforts to combat terrorism around the world.

The document also specifically notes that ISIS poses a “grave threat” to U.S. national security interests and regional stability.

And Obama detailed the ISIS threat in a letter to Congress accompanying the draft legislation.

“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,” Obama writes. “It threatens American personnel and facilities located in the region and is responsible for the deaths of U.S. citizens”

As in the draft resolution, Obama goes on to name the Americans killed in ISIS captivity, “including James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Abdul-Rahman Peter Kassig, and Kayla Mueller.”

There is broad support in Congress for a formal AUMF, though lawmakers disagree on the scope of the military powers that should be handed to the President.

Obama urged Congress during his State of the Union address to formally authorize the military campaign to “show the world that we are united in this mission.”

As he has said in the past, Obama noted in his letter to Congress Wednesday that he already has the authority to fight ISIS, “I have repeatedly expressed my commitment to working with the Congress to pass a bipartisan authorization for the use of military force” against ISIS.

Obama also stressed that the White House’s draft resolution would constrain the U.S. military effort and would not authorize “long-term, large-scale ground combat operations” like in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While Obama did not repeal the 2001 military authorization, he explained in his letter that he remains “committed to working with Congress and the American people to refine, and ultimately repeal, the 2001 AUMF.”

Here is the letter Obama sent to Congress:

THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
February 11, 2015

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.

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

THE WHITE HOUSE,

February 11, 2015.