- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 25, 2017

Two senators demanded Thursday that Congress update the outlines of the war on terror, introducing a new Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) that would explicitly grant the president powers to strike at the Islamic State, as well as still go after al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Sen. Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican, and Sen. Tim Kaine, Virginia Democrat, said the military has been operating under resolutions approved in 2001 and 2002, which granted the president permission to go after terrorists responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and then to unseat Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

In the years since, however, al Qaeda has changed, and the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, has arisen as the new global terrorist network, including claiming responsibility for this week’s attack in Britain.

Both Mr. Flake and Mr. Kaine, who have family members in the military, said the troops need a renewed sense of support for their mission.

“Our troops need to know we’re behind them and when Congress doesn’t speak on this issue for over a decade, there’s an issue here,” said Mr. Flake.

Some legal analysts have questioned whether President Obama and now President Trump have the legal authority to pursue the Islamic State as widely as they have.

The new bipartisan bill repeals the original 2001 AUMF and specifies exactly what organizations the administration can use military force against.

It covers only non-state actors, so it doesn’t reach the governments of North Korea or the Syrian government. It also doesn’t mention the use of ground troops.

It would require the president to give Congress strategy updates and status reports of the military actions under the AUMF. It also covers specific geographic regions, after the 2001 authorization said nothing about geographic limits.

The bill also provides a sunset date for the authorization. If the administration needs to go beyond the five-year sunset, there’s an expedited process to reauthorize it if desired.

“I was hard on President Obama on this and I will be equally hard on this administration,” Mr. Kaine said.

The two senators previously introduced a bill for a new AUMF two years ago, but it didn’t move forward in the Senate.

But they both believe the timing is right this time because there is a new administration. They said they took encouragement from sentiments expressed by Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who said having an AUMF is important.

“He recognizes, as does the president and others, that it’s so much more powerful for the president when he travels abroad, when he engages our allies and our adversaries, to know we speak with one voice,” Mr. Flake said.

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