Obama outlines flexibility and limitations in ISIS authorization request

"Our coalition is on the offensive," Obama said in a brief statement. "ISIL is on the defensive, and ISIL is going to lose."

February 12, 2015 00:33
2 minute read.
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US President Barack Obama speaks during a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Washington. (photo credit: REUTERS)

WASHINGTON -- Sending Congress a request to grant him new war powers against Islamic State, US President Barack Obama said he seeks an authorization sufficiently flexible for the mission at hand, while limited in scope.

"Our coalition is on the offensive," Obama said in a brief statement. "ISIL is on the defensive, and ISIL is going to lose."

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If passed, the president's authorization against ISIL would be the first bill of its kind since Congress voted to authorize war in Iraq in 2003.

In his remarks, the president laid the basis for an argument unusual from the White House: A defense for limiting, not expanding, his authority as commander-in-chief.

The resolution grants the president authority "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," without specifying geographic theaters for combat.

But the draft "does not authorize the use of the United States Armed Forces in enduring offensive ground combat operations." 

On Capitol Hill, some Republicans are questioning why the president would rule out ground troops completely. On the other hand, some Democrats declared opposition to the resolution on Wednesday, concerned over the lack of geographic limitations outlined for the mission.

"I’m convinced that the United States should not get dragged back into another prolonged ground war in the Middle East," Obama said. " That’s not in our national security interest and it’s not necessary for us to defeat ISIL."

"Local forces on the ground who know their countries best," he continued.

Obama outlines flexibility and limitations in ISIS authorization request

The president delivered comments roughly an hour after the State Department confirmed over 20,000 people from 90 countries, including 3,400 Westerners, had so far traveled to Iraq and Syria to fight.

"America’s interests are not served by endless war, or by remaining on a perpetual war footing," he said, flanked by Vice President Joe Biden, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in the Roosevelt Room. "As a nation, we need to ask the difficult and necessary questions about when, why and how we use military force."

Obama's resolution would repeal the 2002 authorization for the use of force against Iraq, but not an authorization passed in 2001, which grants the president near-limitless ability to target suspected terrorists worldwide.

Whether the draft could pass through Congress in its current form remains unclear, given opposition both from the left and from the right the scope of its reach. The ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey), said on Wednesday that the resolution likely could not pass through Congress "in its current form."

Obama's AUMF against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIL, ISIS, and Daesh in the Middle East, sunsets in three years and requires reauthorization at that time under a new president.

A coalition of nations has already struck two thousand targets of Islamic State, Obama said, ranging from vehicles to oil fields, weapons caches to individual leaders.

"Our cause is just, and our mission will succeed," he said, adding: "May God bless our troops."

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