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U.S. House Rejects Move To Force Vote On Waging War Against Islamic State

  • RFE/RL

The U.S. House of Representatives June 11 rejected a measure to force lawmakers to vote by the end of March on providing the president with war powers to fight the Islamic State.

The vote was 231-196 against the measure, which was offered as an amendment to a pending defense spending bill that was later passed. The vote underscored the lack of political will in Congress to resolve the question of what to do about the Islamic State.

The move came as the Pentagon said the United States is considering building more military bases in Iraq to fight IS, while it has already spent more than $2.7 billion on the as-yet unauthorized war against IS in Iraq and Syria since air strikes began last August.

The new bases would be needed to accommodate the deployment of 450 more U.S. troops to Iraq that President Barack Obama announced June 10 to try to curb further territorial gains by IS in Iraq's western Anbar Province.

The 3,100 U.S. forces in Iraq today remain far below the peak of about 170,000 under President George W. Bush, whose war was authorized by Congress.

While often criticizing the president's moves, members of Congress continue to dither and debate what to do about IS.

The amendment rejected by the House would have banned spending on the fight against IS in Iraq and Syria unless Congress passed a new war authorization by March 31.

"Ten months into an undeclared war against ISIS, Congress yet again dodged its responsibility to authorize the use of force," said Representative Adam Schiff (California, Democrat), the author of the amendment.

"While our pilots and special forces risk it all, Congress refuses to do its job. Congressional abdication of our responsibility to declare war, or to deny authorization for war, sets a terrible precedent and shifts war-making powers substantially and inexorably towards the executive branch," he said.

The administration has been open about its recent moves to escalate the U.S. presence in Iraq. Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that with the recent increase in U.S. troops there, more military bases may need to be built.

The Pentagon is eyeing sites in the strategic corridor between Baghdad and Tikrit, as well as further north toward Kirkuk and Mosul, Iraq's second-largest city which was captured by IS a year ago, he told reporters as he traveled in Naples, Italy.

The possible future training sites might resemble the current hub at the Taqaddum air base about 15 miles from Ramadi, and are "just part of prudent planning," Dempsey said.

"It's very practical [planning], looking at geographic locations, road networks, airfields, places where we can actually establish these hubs," he said.

Dempsey also renewed the possibility of deploying U.S. spotters alongside Iraqi forces to call in air strikes during a future offensive, but added, "we're just not there yet."

According to the Pentagon report, the average daily cost of fighting IS is now more than $9 million, with the Air Force accounting for two-thirds of that.

Daily combat, reconnaissance, and other aircraft flights eat up more than $5 million a day. And it said the United States has spent more than $200 million on special operations against IS since August.

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and AFP