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Obama Asks Congress For Authorization To Use Force Against IS

  • Luke Johnson

WASHINGTON -- U.S. President Barack Obama has asked Congress to authorize the use of force against the Islamic State (IS) group in a resolution.

The authorization, which has no geographic limitation, lasts for three years, unless renewed.

The authorization does not permit the use of armed forces in "enduring offensive ground combat operations."

"The resolution we've submitted today does not call for the deployment of U.S. ground combat forces to Iraq or Syria," said Obama, speaking from the White House. "It is not the authorization of another ground war like Afghanistan or Iraq."

He added that the resolution "strikes the necessary balance by giving us the flexibility we need for unforeseen circumstances."

The authorization would repeal the earlier version from 2002 that was adopted prior to the Iraq war.

The new authorization does not address the 2001 document adopted after the September 11, 2001, attacks.

However, Obama said in his letter to Congress that he wanted to work with them to repeal that authorization.

U.S. and coalition forces have been attacking IS targets with air strikes in Iraq since August and in Syria since September 2014, totaling more than 2,300 strikes.

While many lawmakers on Capitol Hill welcomed Obama's decision to send an authorization request months after launching air strikes, several wanted more clarity from the White House.

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (Republican-Ohio) said the plan would face hearings and, "I'm sure, changes."

Boehner added, "I'm not sure the strategy that has been outlined will accomplish the mission the president says he wants to accomplish."

Senator Bob Corker (Republican-Tennessee), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement he appreciated the president sending the authorization and hoped it would pass.

"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 [IS], particularly in Syria," Corker added.

Senator Tim Kaine (Democrat-Virginia), who has long criticized the president for not sending an authorization sooner, said in a statement that he applauded the administration for sending it, but that he was "concerned about the breadth and vagueness of the U.S. ground-troop language and will seek to clarify it."

White House spokesman Josh Earnest defended the vagueness of the authorization at a briefing with reporters.

"What he [Obama] does want to preserve is the ability to react to contingencies, and in some cases, reacting promptly to contingencies may require ordering military action that does require combat boots on the ground," he said, adding that such a mission could involve rescuing U.S. hostages.

Obama said he did not "believe America's interests are served by endless war, or by remaining on a perpetual war footing." He went on, "As a nation, we need to ask the difficult and necessary questions about when, why, and how we use military force."

He struck an optimistic note about the fight against IS militants, saying, "our coalition is on the offensive. [IS] is on the defensive, and [IS] is going to lose."