Obama Asks Congress For Ground Troops to Fight ISIS
On Wednesday, President Obama made an official request to Congress for an authorization to use military force against ISIS (Islamic State) militants, opening the door to “limited” ground combat operations. In a proposed resolution and a letter to Congress (below), the president underscored the “grave threat” posed by by the Islamic State; “If left unchecked, ISIL will pose a threat beyond the Middle East, including to the United States homeland.”
Since June and July 2014, in response to territorial advances made by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (abbreviated ISIL or ISIS, and calling itself the “Islamic State“) militants , the United States led a surprising diverse coalition of countries in strategic airstrikes and covert special forces extractions for US hostages held by the group. The coalition, to many’s surprise included a number of important Arab and Muslim states as well as traditional European allies, intervening in the ongoing civil wars in Syria and Iraq. Rapid territorial gains from ISIS military operations in Iraq and Syria during the first half of 2014, combined with fragrantly genocidal human rights abuses, and the danger of allowing large parts of the Middle East to slip outside of the control of respective governments pushed these allied nations into this initial foray, and in the case of the United States back into active military engagement after officially declaring operations in Iraq over in 2011.
However, Obama’s proposed framework for his proposed use of force against the Islamic State will not restrict the battlefield to Iraq and Syria. According to the Guardian, “multiple congressional sources said on Tuesday, placing the US into a second simultaneous global war that will outlast his presidency.” Most likely, on the table are strikes against militants in a number of other nations.
- Yemen: The country is perilously close to all out civil war between Shia ethic groups in the north and Al-Qaeda and suspected ISIS allied militants in the south and east of the country. Due to the chaos there the US, UK and France have already closed or plan to close their embassies in the capital by the end of the week. Even before the current proposed operation, for years the US has been conducting anti Al-Qaeda drone strikes special forces operations.
- Lybia: The Libyan civil war, with the country awash with weapons in the hands of tribally based militias, allowed Islamic militants to gain a foothold in the ensuing chaos. Some of these groups have openly pledged their loyalty to ISIS claiming to be part of the same Islamic Caliphate established in Northern Syria and Iraq.
- Egypt: Egypt is a Middle Eastern powerhouse with a population of 80 million and what is considered to be a relatively strong military. However, militants in the sparsely populated Sinai Peninsula, the land that connects the part of Egypt in Africa to the Middle East bordering Israel have waged an Islamic insurgency against the government for decades, well before the Arab Spring threw Egypt into chaos. Emboldened by the power vacuum in the wake of the Arab Spring the insurgency increased in intensity with increasingly bold attacks on Egyptian military targets. After the rise of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq in 2014, militants pledged their loyalty to ISIS, and now provide a potential staging ground for attacks against Israel, a staunch US ally. Any strikes by the US in Egypt without consultation and approval from the Egyptian government could end up being a highly contentious international incident.
TO THE CONGRESS OF THE UNITED STATES:
The so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) poses a threat to the people and stability of Iraq, Syria, and the broader Middle East, and to U.S. national security. It threatens American personnel and facilities located in the region and is responsible for the deaths of U.S. citizens James Foley, Steven Sotloff, Abdul-Rahman Peter Kassig, and Kayla Mueller. If left unchecked, ISIL will pose a threat beyond the Middle East, including to the United States homeland.
I have directed a comprehensive and sustained strategy to degrade and defeat ISIL. As part of this strategy, U.S. military forces are conducting a systematic campaign of airstrikes against ISIL in Iraq and Syria. Although existing statutes provide me with the authority I need to take these actions, I have repeatedly expressed my commitment to working with the Congress to pass a bipartisan authorization for the use of military force (AUMF) against ISIL. Consistent with this commitment, I am submitting a draft AUMF that would authorize the continued use of military force to degrade and defeat ISIL.
My Administration's draft AUMF would not authorize long‑term, large-scale ground combat operations like those our Nation conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan. Local forces, rather than U.S. military forces, should be deployed to conduct such operations. The authorization I propose would provide the flexibility to conduct ground combat operations in other, more limited circumstances, such as rescue operations involving U.S. or coalition personnel or the use of special operations forces to take military action against ISIL leadership. It would also authorize the use of U.S. forces in situations where ground combat operations are not expected or intended, such as intelligence collection and sharing, missions to enable kinetic strikes, or the provision of operational planning and other forms of advice and assistance to partner forces.
Although my proposed AUMF does not address the 2001 AUMF, I remain committed to working with the Congress and the American people to refine, and ultimately repeal, the 2001 AUMF. Enacting an AUMF that is specific to the threat posed by ISIL could serve as a model for how we can work together to tailor the authorities granted by the 2001 AUMF.
I can think of no better way for the Congress to join me in supporting our Nation's security than by enacting this legislation, which would show the world we are united in our resolve to counter the threat posed by ISIL.
The administration has declined public comment or indicated any specific time frame or details of its Authorized Use of Military Force.