President Barack Obama’s proposed authorization to use military force against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant is flexible enough to allow for the full range of military scenarios, Defense Secretary Ash Carter told a Senate panel this morning.
Carter testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee alongside Secretary of State John F. Kerry and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey.
In reviewing the president’s proposed AUMF as secretary of defense, Carter said he asked himself two questions.
“First, does it provide the necessary authority and flexibility to wage our campaign, allowing for a full range of likely military scenarios?” Carter said.
Sending a Message
Second, he added, “will it send a message to the people I’m responsible for -- our brave men and women in uniform and civilian personnel who will wage this campaign -- that the country is behind them?”
Carter said he believes the AUMF accomplishes both, and urged Congress to pass the proposal.
The proposed AUMF takes into account the reality that ISIL as an organization is likely to evolve strategically, he said, morphing, rebranding and associating with other terrorist groups as it continues to threaten the United States and its allies.
The AUMF wisely does not include geographical restrictions, Carter said, “because ISIL already shows signs of metastasizing outside of Syria and Iraq.”
The proposed AUMF provides flexibility in military means to prevail against ISIL, with one exception, the secretary added.
“The proposed AUMF does not authorize long-term, large-scale offensive ground combat operations like those we conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan, because our strategy does not call for them,” he added. “Instead, local forces must provide the enduring presence needed for an enduring victory against ISIL.”
The proposed AUMF expires in three years, although no one knows if the campaign will be completed over that time, the secretary said, adding that he understands the reason for the proposed sunset provision.
“It derives from the important principle stemming from the Constitution that makes the grave matter of enacting an authorization for the use of military force a shared responsibility of the president and Congress,” Carter said.
A Chance to Assess Progress
The president’s proposed authorization gives the American people a chance to assess progress in three years’ time, he added, and gives the next president and the next Congress a chance, if they choose, to reauthorize the AUMF.
Carter said another key consideration for approving the AUMF is that it sends the right signals, most importantly to the troops, and also to partner nations.
“It will signal to our coalition partners and to our adversary that the United States government has come together to address a serious challenge,” he said.
Carter again urged Congress to pass the president’s AUMF because, he said, “it provides the necessary authority and flexibility to wage our current campaign. And because it will demonstrate to our men and women in uniform –- some of whom are in harm’s way right now –- that all of us stand unflinchingly behind them.”
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