— Craig Caplan (@CraigCaplan) March 11, 2015
Today Secretary of State Kerry, Secretary of Defense Carter, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dempsey testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on behalf of a new Authorization of the Use of Military Force (AUMF) to take on ISIS.
The hearing is somewhat odd given that President Obama and those that testified claimed that President Obama already has the authority to conduct the ongoing military operations against ISIS under an older AUMF passed in 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
One point of contention during the hearing was language in the new AUMF that is exceedingly vague particularly the use of the term “enduring.” None of those testifying before the committee were willing to define what enduring meant, claiming it was purposely open to give President Obama flexibility.
When pressed Secretary Carter fell back on saying he was “not a lawyer” whereas Secretary Kerry eventually offered that “enduring operations” would likely fall within a “three year range.” General Dempsey left it to the political officials to decide what the language in the AUMF meant.
The hearing also quickly became a proxy battle between the Obama Administration and hawks in Congress over a possible deal with Iran on nuclear weapons and sanctions. In one exchange Senator Rubio essentially accused the Obama Administration of not moving more vigorously against ISIS for fear of damaging the prospects of a deal with Iran. Secretary Kerry pushed back saying “absolutely not in the least,” and claimed that the letter sent by 47 senators to Iran was inappropriate.
The new AUMF will authorize military action against forces in any country that has groups aligned with ISIS and perceived as a threat to the US with the specific mention of Boko Haram in Nigeria and ISIS forces in Libya as potential targets. Operations will continue in Iraq and Syria.