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Obama asks Congress to approve war against ISIS militants

PHOTO EVAN VUCCI, ARCHIVES AP

By Justin Sink and Kristina Wong – 02/11/15 09:22 AM EST

President Obama on Wednesday sent Congress draft legislation authorizing the use of military force against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), warning that, if the terror group was left unchecked, it would “pose a threat beyond the Middle East, including to the United States homeland.” [READ DRAFT ISIS WAR AUTHORIZATION LEGISLATION.]
(The Hill)…The proposed legislation limits Obama from the use of “enduring offensive ground combat operations,” deliberately vague language intended to win over those on the left wary of mission creep and those on the right who don’t want to restrict possible military action against ISIS.

“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,” Obama said in a letter transmitted to Congress along with the legislative proposal.

The president is expected to deliver a statement about the draft legislation at 3:30 p.m. from the White House.
The legislation would also authorize the use of U.S. forces for intelligence-gathering operations, missions to enable airstrikes, or in situations where military personnel can help advise and assist coalition forces.
The White House bill limits the use of military force against ISIS to three years, unless Congress reauthorizes the resolution. And the legislation would also repeal the 2002 legislation authorizing the use of military force against Iraq — although not the broader 2001 legislation enabling the use of force against al Qaeda and its affiliates.
“I remain committed to working with Congress and the American people to refine, and ultimately repeal, the 2001 AUMF,” Obama said.
Obama would also be required to provide Congress with periodic updates on specific military actions taken against the terror network.
The proposal would allow U.S. troops to go after ISIS “or associated persons or forces,” which means the administration would have the authority to chase down other terrorist groups. “Associated persons or forces” are defined as “individuals and organizations fighting for, on behalf of, or alongside ISIL or any closely-related successor entity in hostilities against the U.S. or its coalition partners.”

The White House cast support for the legislation as an important symbolic gesture of unity in combatting ISIS, noting the “horrific acts of violence” — including killings of American captives — undertaken by the group.
“I can think of no better way for 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,” Obama said, using an alternative abbreviation to describe the terror group.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) pledged to “quickly begin to hold rigorous hearings where the administration will have an opportunity to provide Congress and the American people greater clarity on the U.S. strategy to address ISIS.”
“Voting to authorize the use of military force is one of the most important actions Congress can take, and while there will be differences, it is my hope that we will fulfill our constitutional responsibility, and in a bipartisan way, pass an authorization that allows us to confront this serious threat,” Corker said.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), however, said he had “concerns” the draft legislation did not give “military commanders the flexibility and authorities they need to succeed and protect our people.”

“If we are going to defeat this enemy, we need a comprehensive military strategy and a robust authorization, not one that limits our options,” Boehner said.

Obama might face the most difficulty in convincing members of his own party — especially in the House — to back the measure. Many Democrats are expected to want tougher language ruling out the use of ground troops.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said he would carefully review the authorization for use of military force (AUMF) proposal but said he has “two serious concerns” about the draft.

“First, it provides overly broad, fresh authority for the deployment of U.S. ground forces in combat operations in Iraq, Syria, and any other countries in which ISIL or its affiliates may be operating,” he said.
“Second, it leaves in place indefinitely the blank check authority granted to the Executive in the 2001 AUMF,” he added. “It makes little sense to place reasonable boundaries on the Executive’s war powers against ISIL while leaving them unchecked elsewhere.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), among the Senate’s most vocal advocates for passing an AUMF targeting ISIS, said he was “concerned about the breadth and vagueness of the U.S. ground troop language and will seek to clarify it.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said his conference would meet later Wednesday to discuss the proposal. Corker and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) are expected to lead the meeting.
“Because Congress must meet its responsibility to decide whether our military should use force, the Senate will review the President’s request thoughtfully,” McConnell said. “Individual senators and committees of jurisdiction will review it carefully, and they’ll listen closely to the advice of military commanders as they consider the best strategy for defeating ISIL.”

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