Here’s the White House Request for the Use of Force Against the Islamic State

The Obama administration sent the draft resolution to Congress on Wednesday morning. Now it’s Congress’s turn.

Heavy smoke rises following an airstrike by the US-led coalition aircraft in Kobani, Syria, during fighting between Syrian Kurds and the militants of Islamic State group on October 15, 2014.
National Journal
Sarah Mimms and Matt Berman
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Sarah Mimms and Matt Berman
Feb. 11, 2015, 4:26 a.m.

After weeks of an­ti­cip­a­tion, the White House has fi­nally sent a draft Au­thor­iz­a­tion for the Use of Mil­it­ary Force to Con­gress to re­ceive ap­prov­al for em­ploy­ing lim­ited force against the Is­lam­ic State.

The re­quest from the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion would give the pres­id­ent the au­thor­ity to use the U.S. armed forces as he sees fit “against ISIL or as­so­ci­ated per­sons or forces.” The ad­min­is­tra­tion defines “as­so­ci­ated per­sons or forces” as “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.”

The re­quest does not au­thor­ize the use of armed forces in “en­dur­ing of­fens­ive ground com­bat op­er­a­tions” and it would also re­peal the 2002 Au­thor­iz­a­tion of Mil­it­ary Force Against Ir­aq. The au­thor­iz­a­tion would last three years after en­act­ment un­less it is reau­thor­ized, and the pres­id­ent would be re­quired to up­date Con­gress at least once every six months on “spe­cif­ic ac­tions taken pur­su­ant to this au­thor­iz­a­tion.” There are not, however, clear geo­graph­ic­al lim­it­a­tions.

Obama’s draft, giv­en the short title “Au­thor­iz­a­tion for Use of Mil­it­ary Force against the Is­lam­ic State of Ir­aq and the Le­vant,” spe­cific­ally men­tions the deaths of Amer­ic­an cit­izens James Fo­ley, Steven Sotloff, Ab­dul-Rah­man Peter Kassig, and Kay­la Mueller.

The pres­id­ent will de­liv­er a state­ment on the re­quest from the White House at 3:30 p.m. Wed­nes­day.

Now that law­makers on Cap­it­ol Hill have re­ceived the of­fi­cial AUMF lan­guage they’ve spent months ask­ing the White House for, they’re ex­pec­ted to be­gin al­ter­ing it.

Gen­er­ally, Demo­crats are con­cerned about the pro­hib­i­tion on “en­dur­ing of­fens­ive ground troops” and the lack of any oth­er re­stric­tions against Amer­ic­an boots on the ground. “What’s en­dur­ing? What’s of­fens­ive?” Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said, after a brief­ing from the ad­min­is­tra­tion on Tues­day. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., also ex­pressed con­cern “about the breadth and vague­ness of the U.S. ground troop lan­guage” in a state­ment.

Re­pub­lic­ans, mean­while, are voicing grow­ing wor­ries about the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s over­all strategy against ISIL, which the doc­u­ment spends pre­cious little words ad­dress­ing.

Both points will be the fo­cus of con­gres­sion­al hear­ings over the next month or more. Sen­ate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee Chair­man Bob Cork­er said this week that his com­mit­tee is already pre­par­ing for hear­ings on the AUMF le­gis­la­tion, but with Con­gress sched­uled to be on break all of next week, the real wrangling over the bill won’t be­gin un­til the end of the month at least.

Mem­bers will have the op­por­tun­ity to amend the AUMF in com­mit­tee, as well as on the floor, Cork­er said Tues­day. The Re­pub­lic­an chair­man did say, however, that he would keep the White House in the loop on any changes to the AUMF, giv­en the ser­i­ous­ness of the mat­ter.

Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell said Wed­nes­day that Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans would meet to dis­cuss the re­quest Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, led by Sens. Cork­er and John Mc­Cain. “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,” Mc­Con­nell said in a state­ment.

Mem­bers of the House, mean­while, were just be­ing briefed on the doc­u­ment Wed­nes­day morn­ing. The re­quest did not im­me­di­ately land well with House Speak­er John Boehner. “Any Au­thor­iz­a­tion for the use of Mil­it­ary Force must give our mil­it­ary com­mand­ers the flex­ib­il­ity and au­thor­it­ies they need to suc­ceed and pro­tect our people,” he said in a state­ment. “While I be­lieve an AUMF against ISIL is im­port­ant, I have con­cerns that the pres­id­ent’s re­quest does not meet this stand­ard.”

In a state­ment, House Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi called the draft “ser­i­ous and thought­ful” and said, “Con­gress should act ju­di­ciously and promptly to craft and pass an AUMF nar­rowly tailored to the war against IS­IS.” At a Demo­crat­ic caucus press brief­ing Wed­nes­day morn­ing, Pelosi elab­or­ated some­what, say­ing, “Our mem­bers of our caucus have ques­tions, as do I, about what does this lan­guage ac­tu­ally means, be­cause we’re see­ing it for the first time. I think that’s a healthy de­bate, and I hope that there can be com­mon ground that is found.”

Demo­crat­ic doves and liber­tari­an-lean­ing Re­pub­lic­ans have raised con­cerns about the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s de­cision to sun­set the 2002 Ir­aq War Au­thor­iz­a­tion, while leav­ing in place the much more broadly defined 2001 AUMF au­thor­iz­ing the pres­id­ent to use force against any en­tit­ies deemed re­lated to the Septem­ber 11 at­tacks. “It makes little sense to place reas­on­able bound­ar­ies on the ex­ec­ut­ive’s war powers against ISIL while leav­ing them un­checked else­where,” Rep. Chris Van Hol­len said in a Wed­nes­day state­ment.

Rep. Josephy Crow­ley, vice-chair­man of the House Demo­crat­ic caucus, said Wed­nes­day, “There’s some healthy skep­ti­cism with­in our caucus. … Many of my col­leagues in our caucus have been through this be­fore.”

One oth­er point of con­tro­versy is that the cur­rent re­quest would stretch in­to the pres­id­ency of Obama’s suc­cessor.

“Un­less that is fur­ther defined, that might be seen as too big a state­ment to ul­ti­mately em­brace,” Sen. Bob Men­en­dez, the rank­ing Demo­crat on the Sen­ate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee, said. “Be­cause, for­get about Barack Obama. There will be a new pres­id­ent in two years. And this au­thor­iz­a­tion would go in­to that new pres­id­ency.”

The full draft res­ol­u­tion is here and be­low.

This story is break­ing and will be up­dated.


To au­thor­ize the lim­ited use of the United States Armed Forces against the Is­lam­ic State of Ir­aq and the Le­vant.


Where­as the ter­ror­ist or­gan­iz­a­tion that has re­ferred to it­self as the Is­lam­ic State of Ir­aq and the Le­vant and vari­ous oth­er names (in this res­ol­u­tion re­ferred to as ”ISIL”) poses a grave threat to the people and ter­rit­ori­al in­teg­rity of Ir­aq and Syr­ia, re­gion­al sta­bil­ity, and the na­tion­al se­cur­ity in­terests of the United States and its al­lies and part­ners;

Where­as ISIL holds sig­ni­fic­ant ter­rit­ory in Ir­aq and Syr­ia and has stated its in­ten­tion to seize more ter­rit­ory and demon­strated the cap­ab­il­ity to do so;

Where­as ISIL lead­ers have stated that they in­tend to con­duct ter­ror­ist at­tacks in­ter­na­tion­ally, in­clud­ing against the United States, its cit­izens, and in­terests;

Where­as ISIL has com­mit­ted despic­able acts of vi­ol­ence and mass ex­e­cu­tions against Muslims, re­gard­less of sect, who do not sub­scribe to ISIL’s de­praved, vi­ol­ent, and op­press­ive ideo­logy;

Where­as ISIL has threatened gen­o­cide and com­mit­ted vi­cious acts of vi­ol­ence against re­li­gious and eth­nic minor­ity groups, in­clud­ing Ir­aqi Chris­ti­an, Yez­idi, and Turk­men pop­u­la­tions;

Where­as ISIL has tar­geted in­no­cent wo­men and girls with hor­rif­ic acts of vi­ol­ence, in­clud­ing ab­duc­tion, en­slave­ment, tor­ture, rape, and forced mar­riage;

Where­as ISIL is re­spons­ible for the deaths of in­no­cent United States cit­izens, in­clud­ing James Fo­ley, Steven Sotloff, Ab­dul-Rah­man Peter Kassig, and Kay­la Mueller;

Where­as the United States is work­ing with re­gion­al and glob­al al­lies and part­ners to de­grade and de­feat ISIL, to cut off its fund­ing, to stop the flow of for­eign fight­ers to its ranks, and to sup­port loc­al com­munit­ies as they re­ject ISIL;

Where­as the an­nounce­ment of the anti-ISIL Co­ali­tion on Septem­ber 5, 2014, dur­ing the NATO Sum­mit in Wales, stated that ISIL poses a ser­i­ous threat and should be countered by a broad in­ter­na­tion­al co­ali­tion;

Where­as the United States calls on its al­lies and part­ners, par­tic­u­larly in the Middle East and North Africa that have not already done so to join and par­ti­cip­ate in the anti-ISIL Co­ali­tion;

Where­as the United States has taken mil­it­ary ac­tion against ISIL in ac­cord­ance with its in­her­ent right of in­di­vidu­al and col­lect­ive self-de­fense;

Where­as Pres­id­ent Obama has re­peatedly ex­pressed his com­mit­ment to work­ing with Con­gress to pass a bi­par­tis­an au­thor­iz­a­tion for the use of mil­it­ary force for the anti-ISIL mil­it­ary cam­paign; and

Where­as Pres­id­ent Obama has made clear that in this cam­paign it is more ef­fect­ive to use our unique cap­ab­il­it­ies in sup­port of part­ners on the ground in­stead of large-scale de­ploy­ments of U.S. ground forces: Now, there­fore, be it

Re­solved by the Sen­ate and House of Rep­res­ent­at­ives of the United States of Amer­ica in Con­gress as­sembled, That


This joint res­ol­u­tion may be cited as the “Au­thor­iz­a­tion for Use of Mil­it­ary Force against the Is­lam­ic State of Ir­aq and the Le­vant.”


(a) AU­THOR­IZ­A­TION. — The Pres­id­ent is au­thor­ized, sub­ject to the lim­it­a­tions in sub­sec­tion (c), to use the Armed Forces of the United States as the Pres­id­ent de­term­ines to be ne­ces­sary and ap­pro­pri­ate against ISIL or as­so­ci­ated per­sons or forces as defined in sec­tion 5.


(1) SPE­CIF­IC STAT­UTORY AU­THOR­IZ­A­TION. — Con­sist­ent with sec­tion 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Res­ol­u­tion (50 U.S.C. 1547(a)(1)), Con­gress de­clares that this sec­tion is in­ten­ded to con­sti­tute spe­cif­ic stat­utory au­thor­iz­a­tion with­in the mean­ing of sec­tion 5(b) of the War Powers Res­ol­u­tion (50 U.S.C. 1544(b)).

(2) AP­PLIC­AB­IL­ITY OF OTH­ER RE­QUIRE­MENTS. — Noth­ing in this res­ol­u­tion su­per­sedes any re­quire­ment of the War Powers Res­ol­u­tion (50 U.S.C. 1541 et seq.).


The au­thor­ity gran­ted in sub­sec­tion (a) does not au­thor­ize the use of the United States Armed Forces in en­dur­ing of­fens­ive ground com­bat op­er­a­tions.


This au­thor­iz­a­tion for the use of mil­it­ary force shall ter­min­ate three years after the date of the en­act­ment of this joint res­ol­u­tion, un­less reau­thor­ized.


The Pres­id­ent shall re­port to Con­gress at least once every six months on spe­cif­ic ac­tions taken pur­su­ant to this au­thor­iz­a­tion.


In this joint res­ol­u­tion, the term ”as­so­ci­ated per­sons or forces” means 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.


The Au­thor­iz­a­tion for Use of Mil­it­ary Force Against Ir­aq Res­ol­u­tion of 2002 (Pub­lic Law 107— 243; 116 Stat. 1498; 50 U.S.C. 1541 note) is hereby re­pealed.

Rachel Roubein, Rebecca Nelson and Alex Brown contributed to this article.
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