- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Warning that the Islamic State could ultimately pose a threat to the U.S. homeland, President Obama on Wednesday asked Congress for broad, formal war powers against the terrorist group and laid the groundwork for a three-year military campaign.

The authorization for use of military force, or AUMF, includes no geographic restrictions, meaning Mr. Obama could target Islamic State fighters anywhere in the world.

The U.S. and its allies began an air campaign against the Islamic State — also known as ISIS or ISIL — last year, but Wednesday’s request would codify the American military campaign. As currently written, the AUMF would last for three years.

The Islamic State “poses a threat to the people and stability of Iraq, Syria and the broader Middle East, and to U.S. national security. It threatens American personnel and facilities located in the region,” Mr. Obama said in a letter to Congress. “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 president also cited the four Americans killed while held captive by the Islamic State — James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Peter Kassig and, most recently, Kayla Mueller — as reasons why the U.S. must ramp up its offensive against the Islamist organization.

The AUMF will prohibit “enduring offensive combat operations,” and while it does not explicitly ban ground operations, Mr. Obama said he does not intend pursue such a strategy.

“My administration’s draft AUMF would not authorize long-term, large-scale ground combat operations like those our nation conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said, adding that the AUMF does provide for the use of targeted special forces operations for hostage rescue, intelligence-gathering and other missions.

Congress will have a significant role to play in crafting the timeframe and other final details.

Republicans vowed to move on the request quickly.

“We will 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, particularly in Syria,” said Sen. Bob Corker, Tennessee Republican and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “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.”

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said Mr. Corker and Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, will lead a discussion with lawmakers Wednesday afternoon on the details of the White House’s proposal.

Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said the president’s plan takes too many options off the table to give military leaders the resources they need to defeat the Islamic State.

“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.”

The White House has maintained it does not technically need an AUMF but believes pursuing one would send a positive signal.

“The president at that time and has been clear ever since that he wanted Congress to take that action not because he believes it’s legally necessary — the President and his lawyers have concluded that he already has the authority that he needs to order military action against ISIL — but he does believe it would be a powerful symbol for the Congress to send to the American people, to our allies, and even to our enemies, that the United States of America is united behind this strategy,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters Wednesday.

The last AUMF came in 2002, when then-President George W. Bush received congressional approval to wage war against Iraq.

Jacqueline Klimas contributed to this article.

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