US Secretary of State John Kerry appeared before Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday to ask for a new, broadened, three-year Authorization of Military Force (AUMF) under which US can continue to fight ISIL with boots on the ground if needed.
The current AUMF used by the Obama Administration to conduct airstrikes against The Islamic State in Iraq and Levant (ISIL), which Kerry now exclusively employs – was swiftly passed only days after the September 11 attacks, and was targeted at Osama Bin Laden and Al-Qaeda elements.
“As I have said many times, I am not comfortable with the administration’s reliance on the 9/11 AUMF and the 2002 Iraq AUMF,” said the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez – a Democratic Senator from New Jersey – in his opening remarks.
“No member could have foreseen that we would still be acting under (that) authority 13 years later. I do not believe that it proves the authority to pursue a new enemy, in different countries, under completely different circumstances than existed 13 years ago,” said Menendez.
In his testimony, Kerry outlined a framework for a new AUMF that would set aside certain limits on military action.
“The president has been clear that his policy is that US military forces will not be deployed to conduct ground combat operations against ISIL,” Kerry said. “However, while we certainly believe this is the soundest policy, and while the president has been clear he’s open to clarifications on the use of US combat troops to be outlined in an AUMF, that does not mean we should pre-emptively bind the hands of the Commander-in-Chief – or our commanders in the field – in responding to scenarios and contingencies that are impossible to foresee.” However he noted that the new AUMF should be “limited and specific to the threat posed by (ISIL) and by forces associated with it.” To that end, he said, the authorization should come without physical boundaries.
“We do not think an AUMF should include a geographic limitation. We don’t anticipate conducting operations in countries other than Iraq or Syria, but to the extent that ISIL poses a threat to American interests and personnel in other countries, we would not want an AUMF to constrain our ability to use appropriate force against ISIL in those locations if necessary,” Kerry said.