Monday, April 10, 2017

A New Authorization for Use of Military Force Against the Islamic State

Since the United States embarked on a strategy to counter the Islamic State (also known as ISIL
or ISIS) in 2014, some Members of Congress have raised concerns about the President's
underlying authority to engage in anti-IS military operations. In the 114th Congress, both houses
of Congress took steps to revisit the possibility of considering legislation to provide authority for
the use of military force (AUMF) against the Islamic State. Interest has continued into the first
session of the 115th Congress and with the start of the Trump Administration.
In 2014, the armed offensive of the Islamic State in northern and western Iraq and northeastern
Syria raised significant concerns for the United States. After first ordering multiple deployments
of U.S. troops to Iraq to provide security to diplomatic personnel and facilities, advise Iraqi
security forces, and conduct intelligence gathering and reconnaissance, President Obama began
ordering U.S. military airstrikes on IS forces in Iraq in August 2014. Later in September, after
laying out plans for expanded use of military force against the Islamic State in a televised speech
to the American people, the President ordered U.S. military airstrikes in Syria against both IS
forces and forces of the 'KhorasanGroup' identified by the President as part of Al Qaeda. In
2015, the President ordered new deployments to Iraq, and the Administration announced
deployment of a small number of special operations forces to Syria to conduct military operations that involve advising regional partner armed forces but also can include 'unilateral' U.S.
operations. In 2016, both U.S. military operations and deployments of U.S. Armed Forces
increased to continue the campaign against the Islamic State.
As military action against the Islamic State has evolved and increased, many observers, including
a number of Members of Congress, have raised numerous questions and concerns about the
President's authority to use military force against the Islamic State. Some efforts began near the
end of the 113th Congress to consider enactment of a new authorization for use of military force
targeting the Islamic State, and have continued into the 114th Congress; the issue, however,
remains contentious. The President provided Congress a new authorization proposal in February
2015, and in his 2016 State of the Union address again called on Congress to enact a new
authorization for use of military force (AUMF) targeting the Islamic State. The Obama
Administration's official position on presidential authority to use force against the Islamic State,
however, has remained consistent, relying on the previous 2001 AUMF against those who
perpetrated the September 11, 2001, terror attacks (and, to a lesser extent, the 2002 AUMF
against the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq).
This report focuses on the several proposals for a new AUMF specifically targeting the Islamic
State made during the 113th and 114th Congresses as well as those made thus far in the 115th
Congress. It includes a brief review of existing authorities and AUMFs, as well as a discussion of
issues related to various provisions included in existing and proposed AUMFs that both authorize
and limit presidential use of military force. Appendices provide a comparative analysis of similar provisions in the numerous AUMFs proposed in the 113th and 114th Congresses.

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