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Obama Sends Letter to Congress Seeking Authorization of ISIS Fight
President Obama on Wednesday formally asked Congress to authorize a three-year military campaign against the terrorist group the Islamic State that would avoid a large-scale invasion and occupation but in addition to air power could include limited ground operations by American forces to hunt down enemy leaders or rescue American personnel.
A proposal sent by the White House to Capitol Hill on Wednesday would formally give the president the power to continue the airstrikes he has been conducting since last fall against the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, as well as "associated persons or forces." The measure would set limits that were never imposed during the wars of the last decade in Afghanistan and Iraq by expiring in three years and withholding permission for "enduring offensive ground combat operations."
But in a letter to Congress accompanying the proposal, Mr. Obama, who has said there would be no boots on the ground in Iraq and Syria, envisioned limited ground combat operations "such as rescue operations" or the use of "Special Operations forces to take military action against ISIL leadership." He also said the legislation would allow the use of ground forces for intelligence gathering, target spotting and planning assistance to ground troops of allies like Iraq's military.
"If left unchecked, ISIL will pose a threat beyond the Middle East, including to the United States homeland," Mr. Obama wrote. While he repeated his contention that "existing statutes provide me with the authority I need," he said he wanted to work with Congress to obtain bipartisan support. "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."
The proposal was the first time a president has sought congressional approval for force since lawmakers voted in 2002 to authorize President George W. Bush to invade Iraq. Mr. Obama pulled troops out of Iraq in 2011 but has sent a limited number back as part of his campaign against the Islamic State. His proposed legislation would repeal the 2002 authorization but leave in place separate legislation passed in 2001 allowing force against Al Qaeda and its affiliates.
Mr. Obama, who plans to make a statement at the White House at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday to discuss the matter, repeated in his letter his desire to work with Congress to "refine and ultimately repeal" the 2001 measure and distinguished his limited mission from those of his predecessor.
"My administration's draft A.U.M.F.," or authorization for the use of military force, "would not authorize long-term, large-scale ground combat operations like those our nation conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan," he wrote. "Local forces, rather than U.S. military forces, should be deployed to conduct such operations."
Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said he welcomed Mr. Obama's decision to seek the involvement of Congress in the ongoing military campaign. "It also will be important that the president exert leadership, lay out a clear strategy for confronting the threat posed by ISIS, and do the hard work of making the case to the American people why this fight is necessary and one we must win," he said in a statement.
Mr. Corker said hearings would be scheduled to consider the matter and repeated his support for passage of a force measure. "Voting to authorize the use of military force is one of the most important actions Congress can take," he said, "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."
[Source: By Peter Baker, The New York Times, Washington, 11Feb15]
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