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Obama: Scope, Role of Ground Troops Would Be Limited

Wednesday, 11 February 2015 12:54 PM

President Barack Obama’s draft war authorization would allow for the limited use of U.S. ground troops in a conflict against Islamic State that could extend beyond the current battlefield of Iraq and Syria.

The war resolution sent to Congress Wednesday sets the stage for weeks of debate over how much flexibility Obama should be given in continuing an offensive that began with airstrikes six months ago.

Obama is asking for a three-year authorization that would authorize the fight against Islamic State and “associated persons or forces,” a potentially broad definition, while setting no explicit geographic limitations. It would repeal the 2002 authorization for the Iraq war, while leaving untouched the 2001 authorization to fight al-Qaeda and splinter groups.

In their immediate reaction on Wednesday, some Democrats such as Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia said the language isn’t restrictive enough on the use of ground troops, while Republicans such as House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio said they’re concerned it would constrain this president and his successor too much.

Since giving the order for airstrikes in Iraq and Syria last August, Obama repeatedly promised he would not return U.S. ground troops to a conflict in the Middle East.

In a letter to Congress, Obama said his resolution “would not authorize long-term, large-scale ground combat operations like those our nation conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Ground Missions

Yet it would allow for a variety of ground missions, such as using special operations forces to go after Islamic State leaders, finding targets for airstrikes, collecting intelligence and conducting rescue operations, according to his letter.

“A new authorization should place more specific limits on the use of ground troops to ensure we do not authorize another major ground war without the president coming to Congress to make the case for one,” said Adam Schiff of California, who is the top Democrat on the House intelligence committee.

While Islamic State declared a self-styled caliphate in parts of Iraq and Syria, the resolution sets no geographic limits for U.S. military operations against Islamic State, which the government refers to by the acronym ISIL.

In designating Islamic State as the enemy, the resolution also leaves room for combating “individuals and organizations fighting for, on behalf of, or alongside ISIL or any closely- related successor entity in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners.”

Obama’s Successors

By choosing a three-year time frame, Obama partly ties the hands of his successor for the first year of a new president’s term, by prohibiting more expansive ground operations.

The new measure also raises questions about the fate of the 2001 resolution authorizing war against al-Qaeda and any others responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Eight legal scholars, including former acting Solicitor General Walter Dellinger and former State Department legal adviser Harold Koh, urged Obama in a letter to repeal the 2001 resolution.

Unless that earlier measure is repealed, they said, a new authorization against Islamic State “would simply expand the president’s already broad statutory authorities, while doing nothing to ensure public deliberation and congressional accountability respecting significant new military operations.”

Obama, in his letter to Congress, said he wants “to refine, and ultimately repeal,” the 2001 resolution.

When Obama began airstrikes in August, he told Congress he had sufficient legal authority to act based on his executive powers as commander in chief and the 2001 resolution against al- Qaeda, from which Islamic State -- originally called al-Qaeda in Iraq -- broke away.


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President Barack Obama's draft war authorization would allow for the limited use of U.S. ground troops in a conflict against Islamic State that could extend beyond the current battlefield of Iraq and Syria.The war resolution sent to Congress Wednesday sets the stage for...
obama, isis, ground, troops
Wednesday, 11 February 2015 12:54 PM
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