WASHINGTON — President Obama’s request for Congress to formally authorize the use of military force in the war against the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL) has met resistance from lawmakers such as retired Army Lt. Col. Steve Russell (R-OK).
“His request does not lay out a clear intention of his strategy,” Rep. Russell, an Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran, told Breitbart News.
“The president is making safeguards and hedges — asking for authority to defeat ISIS — and then he’s putting his own limitations on what he’s asking for. That’s a non-starter,” added the retired Army Ranger.
Rep. Russell supports a ground troop component to the U.S. fight against ISIS.
However, in announcing his war measure, President Obama said, “The resolution we’ve submitted today does not call for the deployment of U.S. ground combat forces to Iraq or Syria.”
There is a divide on Capitol Hill centered on language in the president’s war proposal barring the use of “enduring offensive ground combat operations” against ISIS, notes The Hill.
“Democrats say this does too little to limit the White House from committing ground troops to the fight, while Republicans say the restrictions could handcuff the military,” explains the article.
Rep. Russell said president Obama needs to articulate his strategy, the short-term objectives of the mission, the number of forces that will be required, and how long U.S. troops will be deployed.
“Look, I’ve been on the receiving of this type of stuff before,” said Rep. Russell, who commanded a unit in Iraq that played a key role in hunting down Saddam Hussein. “Prior to committing America’s men and women to harm’s way, we have to know: who is it, Mr. President, that we’re fighting?”
“Is it some junior varsity team that’s on the ground for us to deal with or is it an ideology?” he continued. “The president does use the word ideology once in his draft. It is the first time I’ve seen him use it, but this is an Islamic extremist ideology that is embodied in ISIS and could rear its head in other forms.”
In the draft, Obama does not link the Islamic State’s ideology to jihadism or Islamic extremism. He calls it a “depraved, violent, and oppressive ideology.”
The combat veteran lawmaker said that, in its present form, he would not support the president’s war measure.
“The other thing that I’m concerned about is he’s asking for the authorization for three years with no clear strategy in view and that just kicks it to the next administration, whoever that may be regardless of political party,” Rep. Russell told Breitbart News. “No, Mr. President, how about 12 months and let’s revisit this if we grant you the authorization. Or how about 18 months and in six month increments we’ll look at the progress and see how it’s going?”
The Oklahoma Republican pointed out that, in the proposal, Obama is asking to repeal the 2002 authorization for the Iraq war, which would create future problems.
That “will eliminate the use of force in Iraq, and the reason that’s a problem is you currently have Iranian-backed Shiite militias that are operating in Iraq and are fighting against ISIS, but when things settle down, those militias may turn on the Iraqi government,” said Rep. Russell.
“We would have to go for a reauthorization,” added the congressman.
President Obama’s proposal would limit the authorization for the continued use of military force against ISIS to three years and would repeal the 2002 Iraq AUMF, which authorized the 2003 Iraq invasion.
The 2001 authorization for operations against al-Qaeda and its allies, which Obama claims grants him legal authority to continue to bomb ISIS, would be kept in place.
There would be no geographic limits on the anti-ISIS war, allowing the Obama administration to chase after ISIS and its affiliates.
The proposal does not “give our military commanders the flexibility and authorities they need to succeed and protect our people,” said House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH).
“Because Congress must meet its responsibility to decide whether our military should use force, the Senate will review the president’s request thoughtfully,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). “Individual senators and committees of jurisdiction will review it carefully, and they’ll listen close.”
While only a “handful of Democrats” openly opposed the president’s AUMF, more expressed reservations about the proposal, The Hill reports.
The skepticism from both parties has cast doubts on Congress’ ability to pass the war measure.